Picks and Pans Review: Stardust Memories

updated 11/10/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/10/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

"I especially liked your early, funny films," sasses a fan to Woody Allen in this mordant but mercilessly witty self-portrait of an artist coming apart. Allen plays a frustrated filmmaker, much like himself, who made his reputation in comedy but longs to do despair. (Allen tried and fell short in Interiors.) At a weekend seminar in a New Jersey resort hotel, the characters of his life come to taunt him in a surreal daydream. For a unique artist like Allen, the form of the film is strikingly unoriginal. After Bob Fosse's All That Jazz, do we need another version of Fellini's 8½? Allen's answer: yes. Though the film is self-indulgent and often cruel (his fans in the film are like Diane Arbus photographic misfits), Allen's eye for the absurd is unerring. He has written telling scenes for the three main women in his life, played by Charlotte Rampling, Marie-Christine Barrault and Jessica Harper. All three are talented and beautiful, Rampling extravagantly so. If the film lacks anything, it's a generosity of spirit—just the flaw Allen seems to find in himself. At the end, he retreats, alone, to the strains of Cole Porter's Easy to Love. Easy he isn't. But for his uncompromising intelligence and humor, Allen, as always, is worth the effort. (PG)

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