Stardust Memories (1980), directed by Woody Allen
Woody Allen plays Sandy Bates, acclaimed movie director, who is fighting with the studio about the bummer/art film ending he wants to put on his movie: “I don’t wanna make funny movies any more, they can’t force me to. I don’t feel funny, I look around the world and all I see is human suffering.”
Stardust Memories is the Woody Allen movie that gave us the immortal line written by Woody Allen about Woody Allen movies: “I especially like your early funny ones,” offered by one of the dozens of grotesques, sycophants, haters, parasites, leeches, autograph seekers, stalkers, business partners, employees, friends, envious old friends, lovers, ex-lovers, potential future lovers, and estranged relatives who populate Sandy/Woody’s existence, and he despises pretty much all of them. Oh, wait, one more category; the audience.
This is the movie where Woody Allen stopped trying to entertain the public and started trying to express who he was.
As someone who generally related to the Early Funny Ones, this movie always stuck out in my mind because of the art direction of Sandy’s apartment: enormous blowups of images, one of Groucho Marx, another of the infamous Eddie Adams photo of South Vietnamese Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon, street via pistol shot to the head. But I never thought very much about meanings of those images on those walls, as odd as they were, and as briefly as some of them were visible.
Sandy’s a dog. A film professor who wants the esteemed director to talk to his class is uninteresting until Sandy sees his girlfriend, Daisy (Jessica Harper). Sandy leverages his power-position to rope Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling) into a relationship, and in his strongly art-directed apartment, they have this creepy exchange:
Sandy[referring to Dorrie’s father]: What is this guy not an expert in?
He's a tennis player and an antique connoisseur and a wine expert,
and he’s probably gorgeous, right, with the greying temples, and
the aquiline profile.
Dorrie: A great looking man. Whenever mother was away in her
sanitarium, the ladies, they flocked around him.
Sandy: And what about you, did you have a little crush on him, you
can admit this to me if you like. (Starts rubbing her shoulders)
Dorrie: Sure, we had a little flirt.
Sandy: A little small flirt? Mother away getting shock treatment,
and the only beautiful daughter home? Long lingering breakfasts
with Dad? Is this getting nauseating?
Dorrie: Yeah. No competition for my mother, because she was
Later, Sandy is sitting with dark, gloomy Daisy, whose boyfriend is the film professor, confessing, without details, about an erotic dream she had about Sandy, when he is approached by two teenage girls who want his autograph. “We think you’re so sexy,” they say.
“I’m sexy?” Sandy says, and then to Daisy: “They think I’m sexy,” as we cut to an argument:
Sandy: Come on, Dorrie.
Dorrie: Don't lie to me. You're attracted to her.
Sandy: I'm not attracted to her. What are you talking about?
Dorrie: Staring at her all through dinner. Giving each other looks.
Sandy: Stop it. She's 14 years old.
Dorrie: Don't you think I see it?
Sandy: She's not even 14, she's 13-and-a-half.
Dorrie: I don't care. I used to play those games with my father,
so I know. I've been through all that.
Sandy: What kind of games? You think I'm flirting with your
Dorrie: You can't take your eyes off her!
Sandy: She was sitting opposite me.
Dorrie: You smile at her!
Sandy: I smile at her. I'm a friendly person. What do you want?
She's a kid! This is stupid! I don't wanna have this conversation.
Dorrie: Don't tell me it's stupid! I used to do that with my father,
across the table, all those private jokes. I know.
Sandy: You know how ridiculous this sounds? What are you saying?
That I'm flirting with your kid cousin? I mean, doesn't that sound . . .
And then there’s the scene, which is just weird and awful, when Sandy and his main girlfriend Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault) visit Sandy’s sister (Anne De Salvo).
Sandy: Did I come at a bad time?
Sandy’s sister: No, you didn't come at a bad time. We're all doing
yoga. We're all relaxed. Come on. You know everybody. I know
you know Irene.
Sandy: Oh, yeah. What happened, Irene?
Sandy’s sister: It's so ironic. Look at her face. We moved here to
get away from the crime and garbage, and look at this face. Someone
broke into her house last week, they robbed her, they raped her...
Sandy: In the suburbs?
Sandy’s sister: Isobel, they raped her over and over again.
They tied her to the bed.
Irene: It was horrible.
Sandy’s sister: Do you believe it?
Irene: With my scarf.
Irene: I didn't even resist.
Sandy: I'm sure you didn't resist. Knowing you, Irene, you...
Sandy’s sister: Come on in. How about a drink? Isobel? Coffee? Tea?
The studio rewrites the end of Sandy’s movie, overruling his protests about art, so it has a stupid bullshit Hollywood ending. “Too much reality is not what the people want,” says a studio exec.