It is easy to mistake Woody for the unappealing director he plays in Stardust Memories, his overt variation on / ripoff of Fellini’s 8.5. Never mind that Stardust Memories is not that funny, or that its smooth cutaways to fantasy and daydream add nothing new to the Fellini playbook: You just don’t like the hero. He’s an ugly little narcissist. You never find a reason to go the distance with him — and the distance traveled covers something like the navel to the eye. His complaints (which amount to “No-one appreciates my genius!” and “Must I always be funny?”) sink beneath the weight of their self-regard — and the Woodman’s inability to match Fellini’s gift for comic fantasy. And hey, admit it. You never cared all that much for 8.5.1
Verdict: For Allen fans, this is a curdled curio with some great b&w cinematography by Gordy Willis. For everyone else, beware.
1 8.5 was fairly autobiographical, so Woody tripped in deciding to play the lead. Granted, many of his leads play Woody anyway — but it’s a cop-out for him to have made a film that apes another guy’s film about director’s block (turning it into a neurotic’s full-blown existential crisis), and to have played that director and told the trades (then, when he first released Stardust Memories, and later) that he had simply played a role. He defies us, basically, to not identify him with the character, so any conflation of the two is natural.