Going in, I had no ideal this was actually a sort of parody of Fellini’s 8½. It was only around midway through when I suddenly realized it, during one of the childhood flashback scenes. The movie does work perfectly fine on its own if you don’t catch the references, but it does give plenty of additional depth when you actually get what the movie was paying homage to and you are able to play around in your head, theorizing the allusions and how everything reflects in contrast to Fellini’s original film. Overall, it’s a very interesting experience to watch, the surrealistic approach certainly gives it this feeling of artistic gravitas that some of Allen’s other movies don’t hold.
Even if you take Allen on his word and believe that the main character Sandy Bates isn’t suppose to literally represent Allen himself and that critics completely misunderstood the movie when thinking that Allen was voicing his hostility towards his own fan base, it is still interesting thought experiment to inspect the film in that light. After all, Allen’s character is a director suffering from wanting to do more avant-grade style films (as depicted by the opening scene), but all his fans talk about is loving his earlier, funnier films rather than compliment his current ones. It certainly sounds very plausible in theory. Perhaps Allen did have some inner fears and frustration from moving to a new direction as a movie maker and that was subconsciously reflected in the movie itself. It is an entertaining thought to play around with, even if it holds very little actual value when speaking of the movie itself because you can either believe Woody, or not. There rest is just trying to play death of the author and sound like a pretentious film school student.