TRAILERS FROM HELL: Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980):
It’s a fascinating movie, brimming with ideas, and as Larry Karaszewski (co-screenwriter of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood and former critic) notes in the above clip, a homage to Fellini’s surreal 8 ½ from 1963, with a raw and stunning jumpcut sequence illustrating the nervous breakdown of Charlotte Rampling’s character.
But Stardust Memories also cost Woody Allen his American audience — coming off Manhattan, which earned nearly $40 million at the American box office (a respectable take in 1979 dollars), Stardust Memories only returned $10.3 million, barely breaking even. (And United Artists could have really used a hit at that time to offset the concurrent financial debacle of Heaven’s Gate, which essentially put them out of business as an independent entity.)
Woody’s US career was never the same; he went from being a mainstream American filmmaker to being an acquired elitist taste for those outside of Manhattan. (Ted Cruz, call your office.) But then, filmmaker who trashes his audience as badly as Woody did in Stardust Memories shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t return for seconds. Or as James Lileks wrote in an early Bleat, “I just remember hating the movie. Deeply. I took it personally. I had walked into the theater hoping to see another film from My Hero, and when it was done I felt stupid for admiring him. Because only idiots admired him, it seemed. I don’t think I ever looked forward to a Woody Allen movie after that one.”