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November 02, 1980 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-02

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g ARTS ___
I9og 6 Sunday, November 2, 1980 The Michigan Daily

7oody s latest: An unsensual

ob session

Over the last decade, Woody Allen,
has created a public image that spilled
over into his movies, transforming his
mealy mug into America's neurotic
national monument. By now, it's not
worth making distinctions between his
ov- and off-screen personalities;
they've merged into a single, mythic
identity. Allen's Jewish narcissism
may leave him open to charges of self-
inidulgence, but without it, Annie Hall
and Manhattan wouldn't have that
strong identityibackbone. Like Philip
The U-M Department of

Roth, he's probably at his most honest
and compelling when he's most self-
Even Woody Allen's peculiarly self-
centered brand of quasi-
autobiographical moviemaking makes
one rigorous demand on the ego in-
volved: that he be true to his deepest
instincts. Annie Hall was a love-poem
from the heart-asincere sentimentality.
In Stardust Memories, Allen tries to
turn his sentimental heart to stone, but
his cynicism is a conceit. He's taking
the wildest, most elaborate ego-trip of
his career, yet the-movie never really
holds you because Allen is no longer
playing with his real obsessions. Wat-
ching him toss various self-images
around may be fascinating and even
satisfying to some Woody Allen fans,
who tend to be enraptured by anything

he does, but then so might a manilla
folder of xeroxed interviews with Allen. °
Stardust Memories isn't boring, but it's
a film you "read" rather than enjoy.
YOU'D THINK that after nearly a
quarter-century in psychoanalysis,
Woody Allen could stop using other
people's supposed misery as the ex-
planation for his own unhappiness. His
best comedy takes off from crazy, per-
sonal details. But when Woody Allen
gets serious, he's an encyclopedia of
abstrations. Death, God, the Suffering
of the Masses-it's all so blandly
universal he might as well be quoting
Budhust scriptures. In Stardust
Memories, Allen stumbles on to a new
abstraction: His audience. And it's by
putting his audience in abstract ter-
ms-seeing them as a physically ugly,
vulgar, philistine horde-that he can


Theore and Drama
Nov. 58
Tickets at the
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Michigan League

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let his contempt loose. That tiresome
death-fixation of his has always been a
subtle form of contempt anyway-a bit
of intellectual one-upmanship aimed at
the vast majority of his audience,
whom Allen knows only too well don't
fret away their days contemplating
such cosmic questions. Now, Allen cuts
through to the seeds of his contempt
with a grossly self-pitying audience-
rejection fantasy.
Allen stars as Sandy Bates, a famous
comic director who wanto to make
serious, important movies. Throughout
the picture, he's hounded by nattering
production assistants trying to com-
mercialize his work, and by his adoring
followers, who converge on him in a
cretinous swarm. Autograph freaks,
comic-obscure charity organizers,
spaced-out groupies, knowing film
critics, would-be screenwriters and ac-
tors, and assorted hangers-on all strain
for their moment next to the Star. "We
love you," they keep telling him.
Allen's patented horn-rimmed grimace
tells us the feeling is anything but
The kicker, of course, is that Allen in-
tends all of this to be big news. After a
decade of audience-pleasing comedies,
he's trying to fmake good on the old
cliche about a comedian's hostility
toward his audience. He's stabbing
them in the back. Throughout, Allen.
cleverly conceals himself from coun-
terattacks. He's thought of every con-
ceivable criticism one could make of
Woody Allen-his career, his image, his
movies-and planted them in the
mouths of dodo characters, as if to say,
"See, I already know your com-
plaint-it couldn't be valid." The same
ploy was pulled in the oppressively
macabre Interiors-a character spoke
of how pessimism in art was the latest
trendy rage-but half of Stardust
Memories is taken up by self-defensive
maneuvers. Allen justifies his misan-
thropy by demonstrating that he's his
own best critic.
THE OPENING is a paradigm of
Allen's method. It's a super-obvious
Fellini spin-off, with plaintive, gum-
jawed grotesques surrounding Woody
Allen on a creaky train. The scene in-
tentionally recalls Marcello Mastrion-
ni's suffocating entrapment at the start
of Fellini's 8%. But Allen doesn't
merely leave himself open to the
charge of being derivative; the entire
sequence is set up to invite such ac-
cusations. The catch is that in a few
375 N. MAPLE
Daily Discount Matinee



The Ann Arbor Chamber Orchestra
JAY, NOVEMBER 2, at 3:00 PM

Jessica Harper and Woody Allen in a scene from Allen's latest film, Stardust
Memories, the heartrending story of how awful it is to be Woody Allen and
have to put up with all the people who worship Allen movies like Stardust

momentsr some scratchy leader
flashes by, revealing that it's not
"Stardust Memories" we've been wat-
ching, but a clip from the film study
Sandy Bates is making. Can this really
be called self-parody? In a technical
sense, yes, because the whole of Star-
dust Memories turns out to be an imit-
ation/homage to 81. But it's parody
with a knowing, self-congratulatory
grin, the sort of plastic risk-taking a
celebrity indulges in not because he's
sick of his image, but because he's
begun to anticipate his detractors.
Allen is so preoccupied with jolting
home these messages about where he
stands that he's dispensed with most of
the formal continuities of a traditional
narrative. Temporally speaking, Star-
dust Memories' key inspiration might
have been Last Year at Marienbad. The
movie is a jumble of flashbacks, fan-
tasies, and fancy crosscutting, with no
real "present" and not much of a story.
Allen was doubtlessly going for a free-
form, collage effect, and the quick tan-
stitions keep one from losing interest,
but they shut out real emotional in-
volvement, too: Stardust Memories has
no seductive structural logic, no mood.
The action does, at least, center
around a single location-the Hotel
Stardust, where a film critic is holding
an exclusive weekend seminar on
Sandy Bates' films, featuring the direc-
tor himself. (This is, in fact, based on
critic Judith Crist's notorious film
seminars of.a few years ago, and Allen
gets in some wickedly funny digs at
Crist and her gushy-nincompoop school
of movie, criticism.) Included are
question-and-answer sessions with
Sandy Bates, screenings of his movies,
and close encounters with a variety-
pack assortment of fans. One man begs
him to donate a truss to a charity auc-
tion; a woman in a tube-top requests
that he sign her breast (he complies); a
psychaitrist working on a definitive
study of Sandy Bates' work wants to
know if he has ever had intercourse
with an animal. Essentially, these hotel
guests are all variations on the shovel-
faced cabbie who spotted Alvy Singer
outside a movie theater in Annie Hall
and began shouting his name down the



featuring CSABA ONCZAY, Cello

THE CLIPS from Sandy Bates' old
films are intriguing-picture-perfect
take-offs on the absurd/demented style
Allen brought to a zenith in Bananas,
Everything You Always, Wanted to
Know About Sex, and What's Up, Tiger;
Lily? But you can't laugh at them com-
fortably, since one's easy response to
the reckless humor is part of what0
Stardust Memories thumbs its nose at.
Some of the movie's dramatic scenes
are partial restagings of funny bits
from Annie Hall and Manhattan, only
here, they're intentionally less funny.
Allen seems to dismiss the comedy for
being too garishly obvious. He's saying
how easy it is to laugh-how it's only
the plebians who want to keep laughing.
By lining up hysterical clips next to
scenes in which he cynically bad-
mouths comedy, he's not only
defacating on his own past, but onW
anyone in the audience who par-
This latent hostility to humor is
presented as a protest against those
who (in films or life) would shut out
"reality." But Woody Allen doesn't
seem very interested in reality in Star
dust Memories. He pictures Sandy
Bates in relationships with three dif-
ferent women, but the scenes are static,
spotty, undeveloped. Two of these
women-Charlotte Rampling as Dori,°a
neurotic, darkly sexy starlet, and
Marie-Cristine Berrault as a serenely
mature French earthL
mother-suggest images of Woody
Allen's idealized woman. (Both,
significantly, drag down the relations
ships out of their own emotional schiz-
ziness.) But the goddess mystique is
what's so crushingly limited. Allep's
romances don't make any organic sen-
se unless the woman he's involved with
has a messily complicated set of quirks
to complement the hero's compulsive
Jewish-neurotic hang-ups. And this film
has its de-glamorized Annie Hall in
Jessica Harper, who plays a smart,
frazzled orchestral violinist who ac-
companies her film-teacher boyfriend
to the seminar and forms a vaguely
romantic liason with Sandy Bates.
Harper, whose most notable previous
performance was probably as the
charming guileless Phoenix in Brian De
Palma's Phantom of the Paradise, has
dark, frizzy hair and a low-whiny voice
(like Brooke Adams'),.and here she's
playing the hero's real dreamboat. Like
Diane Keaton in Manhattan, Harper is
See STARDUST, Page 7

Additional $1.00 discount with this adi


Concerto for 'Cello-Haydn
Concerto in G--Boccherini
Ancient Airs and Dances-Respighi

Tickets on sale at the Michigan
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Philip Glass, the composer of two operas (one of which was performed to sold - a apeae-1U eueuc
out houses at the Met) and a powerful influence on David Bowie, Brian Eno and a aL uo oloUI Dy,, ao sazayds L 1
Robert Fripp, combines classical elements, Javanese and Indian music, and lend of classical elements and electronic sound
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0190 RONPiCTiM CowMAT ALLI1i*Td rSERl E -O
} 1:30 3:30 5:30
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Coast to Coast
3:00 6:00 9:50


James Murray
Drain Commissioner.
* Former County Energy Co-ordinator
" Former County Erosion
Control Officer
* B.S. in Public Administration
Elect Murray
Paid for by Murray for Drain Commissioner
Bev Bader, Treas., Box 499, Whitmore Lake. MI 48189


4:45 8:15




He will protect the public
interest in conservation and
quality of natural resources.


FRED POSTILL, former Washtenaw County Sheriff, now Criminal Jus-
tice Consultant, says this about the Sheriff's race:
/"During the past three and one-half years the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Depart-
ment has drastically reduced its service to the residents of Washtenaw County while
its budget has morethan doubled to over eight million dollars.
"Clearly this reflects a lack of effective leadership on the part of the current Sher-
iff and his staff of political appointees who administer these county funds.

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