Stardust Memories

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Stardust Memories
Stardust memories moviep.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWoody Allen
Produced byRobert Greenhut
Charles H. Joffe
Jack Rollins
Written byWoody Allen
StarringWoody Allen
Charlotte Rampling
Jessica Harper
Marie-Christine Barrault
Tony Roberts
CinematographyGordon Willis
Edited bySusan E. Morse
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • September 26, 1980 (1980-09-26)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million
Box office$10.4 million

Stardust Memories is a 1980 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Woody Allen and starring himself, Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper and Marie-Christine Barrault. Sharon Stone has a brief role, in her film debut. The film is about a filmmaker who recalls his life and his loves - the inspirations for his films - while attending a retrospective of his work.[2] The film is shot in black and white and is reminiscent of Federico Fellini's (1963), which it parodies.

Stardust Memories was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy written directly for screen, but was not warmly received by critics on its original release, and is not among the most renowned works in Allen's filmography. The film has nonetheless been re-evaluated to some extent, with modern reception more often positive than negative. Allen, who denies that the work is autobiographical and has expressed regret that audiences interpreted it as such,[3] even considers it to be one of his finest, alongside The Purple Rose of Cairo and Match Point.[4]


The film follows famous filmmaker Sandy Bates, who is plagued by fans who prefer his "earlier, funnier movies" to his more recent artistic efforts, while he tries to reconcile his conflicting attraction to two very different women: the earnest intellectual Daisy and the more maternal Isobel. Meanwhile, he is also haunted by memories of his ex-girlfriend, the unstable Dorrie.



Allen has asserted that Stardust Memories is not an autobiographical work. "[Critics] thought that the lead character was me," the director is quoted as saying in Woody Allen on Woody Allen. "Not a fictional character but me, and that I was expressing hostility towards my audience. That was in no way the point of the film. It was about a character who is obviously having a sort of nervous breakdown and, in spite of success, has come to a point in his life where he is having a bad time."[7]

The conflict between the maternal, nurturing woman and the earnest, usually younger one, is a recurring theme in Allen's films. Like many of Allen's films, Stardust Memories incorporates several jazz recordings including those by such notables as Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, and Chick Webb. The film's title alludes to the famous take of "Stardust" recorded in 1931 by Armstrong, wherein the trumpeter sings "oh, memory" three times in succession. However, it is the master take that plays in the movie during the sequence where Sandy is remembering the best moment of his life: looking at Dorrie while listening to Armstrong's recording of the song.

The film deals with issues regarding religion, God, and philosophy; especially existentialism, psychology, symbolism, wars and politics. It is also about realism, relationships, and death. It refers to many questions about the meaning of life. It also ruminates on the role that luck plays in life, a theme Allen would revisit in Match Point.


Filming locations include:

From the sleevenotes of MGM's 2000 DVD release: "Shot on location in the fall of 1979, Stardust Memories may look as though it takes place in a Victorian-style seaside hotel, but it was actually shot at the Ocean Grove Great Auditorium and the Methodist Episcopal Conference Center and Concert Hall in New Jersey. Most of the interiors, including the bedroom scenes, were shot in a vacant Sears Roebuck building, but the crew also recreated a vintage train at Filmways Studio in Harlem. To reproduce the movement of a rail car, the whole train was mounted on jacks and gently jostled back and forth."[9]


In Diane Jacobs' But We Need the Eggs: The Magic of Woody Allen, the director is quoted as saying: "shortly after Stardust Memories opened, John Lennon was shot by the very guy who had asked him for his autograph earlier in the day... This is what happens with celebrities: one day people love you; the next day they want to kill you."[10]

Aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports a 68% approval of Stardust Memories, with an average rating of 6.7/10 from 28 reviews.[11] Janet Maslin wrote the work "is [Allen's] most provocative film thus far and perhaps his most revealing" and certainly "the one that will inspire the most heated debate".[12] Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four and called it "a disappointment. It needs some larger idea, some sort of organizing force, to pull together all these scenes of bitching and moaning, and make them lead somewhere."[13] Gene Siskel gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and suggested that Allen "seems to have run out of creative gas. The film doesn't have much of a premise."[14] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that the film "has no dramatic shape or resonance, and the incidental laughs are few and far between."[15] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times was positive, calling the film "both extremely funny and extremely affecting ... Allen's growth as an actor and as a filmmaker in confident command of his medium is one of the several remarkable readouts from this film."[16] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote, "In 'Stardust Memories' we get more of the same thoughts over and over—it's like watching a loop. The material is fractured and the scenes are very short, but there was not a single one that I was sorry to see end. 'Stardust Memories' doesn't seem like a movie, or even like a filmed essay; it's nothing."[17]

In a joint article, The Daily Telegraph film critics Robbie Collin and Tim Robey listed it as Allen's 10th greatest film and wrote; "slammed at the time, it's a retrospective knock-out, thanks to its ambitious structure, vinegary gags and the searing monochrome photography, courtesy of Gordon Willis".[18] Sam Fragoso of IndieWire also ranked it among Allen's best works, lauding it as "an extraordinarily realized portrait of artistic stagnation".[19] The film was listed 16th among Allen's efforts in a poll of Time Out contributors, with editor Joshua Rothkopf praising it as "a piece of self-referential hilarity in its own right."[20]

In October 2013, Stardust Memories was voted by the Guardian readers as the eighth best film directed by Woody Allen.[21]

Box office[edit]

Stardust Memories opened in North America on September 26, 1980 to an onslaught of bad reviews. At 29 theatres, it grossed $326,779 ($11,268 per screen) in its opening weekend. The film grossed $10,389,003 by the end of its run. The film's budget was $10 million.[22]



  1. ^ "STARDUST MEMORIES (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 1980-10-23. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  2. ^ "Stardust Memories". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 26, 2012.[better source needed]
  3. ^ Nichols, Mary P. (1998). Reconstructing Woody: Art, Love, and Life in the Films of Woody Allen. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 4. ISBN 0-8476-8990-5.
  4. ^ Lax, Eric (November 18, 2007). Conversations With Woody Allen. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-41533-5. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  5. ^ Julian Fox (1996). Woody: Movies from Manhattan. Overlook Press. ISBN 978-0-87951-692-5.
  6. ^ Zinsser, William (August 2, 2010). "My Stardust Memories". The American Scholar. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  7. ^ Allen, Woody; Stig Björkman (1994). Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In Conversation with Stig Björkman. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3425-4.
  8. ^ "Filming locations for Stardust Memories". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 26, 2012.[better source needed]
  9. ^ Stardust Memories (DVD). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 2000.
  10. ^ Diane Jacobs (1 July 1983). But We Need the Eggs: The Magic of Woody Allen. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-10999-8.
  11. ^ "Stardust Memories (1980)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  12. ^ Janet Maslin (September 26, 1980). "The Acid Humor of Woody Allen's Stardust Memories". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Stardust Memories". Retrieved December 3, 2018.
  14. ^ Siskel, Gene (October 3, 1980). "Woody Allen trips on his own work in 'Memories'". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 3.
  15. ^ Arnold, Gary (October 3, 1980). "Left-Over 'Memories'". The Washington Post. C1.
  16. ^ Champlin, Charles (September 28, 1980). "Woody Allen's Weekend: Close Enough For Discomfort". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 1.
  17. ^ Kael, Pauline (October 27, 1980). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 189.
  18. ^ Collin, Robbie; Robey, Tim (October 12, 2016). "All 47 Woody Allen movies - ranked from worst to best". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  19. ^ Fragoso, Sam (July 25, 2014). "Here Are Woody Allen's Best Movies". IndieWire. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  20. ^ "Best Woody Allen movies: 20-11". Time Out. March 24, 2016. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  21. ^ "The 10 best Woody Allen films". The Guardian. London. October 4, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  22. ^ "Stardust Memories". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
  23. ^ "Soundtracks for Stardust Memories". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 26, 2012.[better source needed]

External links[edit]