The Camera Loves Them

In some ways, Celebrity feels like a comical trot on Richard Schickel's notably un-famous 1985 book Intimate Strangers: The Culture of Celebrity, which dissected the dangerous tug of unattainable glamour and fame, and the lonely desperation of the autograph hound, the status seeker, the fan. Given his back pages, though, Allen probably grasps the ironies of fame more deeply even than Schickel. Witness the image with which he begins and ends the film. Literally, it belongs to Celebrity's amorphous movie-within-a-movie, but it speaks for Lee, for Robin, and, if I don't miss my guess, for Allen himself: We watch a single-engine airplane as it crosses over Manhattan, skywriting a single word: "Help."

Written and directed by Woody Allen. Starring Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Joe Mantegna, Famke Janssen, Winona Ryder, and Melanie Griffith. At area theaters.

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