Saturday 21 May 2011

The Purple Rose of Cairo [1985]

The Purple Rose of Cairo must have been close to Woody Allen on account of it being a lovely homage to the joy of watching cinema. Cecelia (played memorably by Mia Farrow) is leading a drab existence, what with trying to survive in Depression Era America, losing her job, and being married to a brutish husband – all compounded by the fact that she’s a meek and docile person. So, in order to escape from her dreary life, she spends hours in movie theatres. While watching the eponymous movie – a screwball comedy – one of the film’s characters (played to perfection by Jeff Daniels) literally jumps out of the screen and run away with her. What follows is a series of immensely hilarious sequences, with the film’s other characters not being able to continue with their acts, while the movie’s director, producer and actors running helter-skelter to get hold of the renegade character. However, despite all the funny gags, a deep sense of melancholia pervades through the film, made all the more sad when Cecelia is forced to crash-land back to her glum existence after the guy who actually played the character (played again by Jeff Daniels) does a neat double cross on her in order to rescue his career. Though it falls short in terms of the intellectual content vis-à-vis Woody’s other renowned works, this bittersweet fantasy-comedy with its whimsical content remains an important part of his vaunted cannon nonetheless.

Director: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy/Romantic Comedy/Fantasy/Media Satire
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

Wonderful capsule, Shubhajit, of a rightly beloved Woodman feature that is more than just a tad indepted to Buster Keaton's SHERLOCK JR. The entire "joy of watching cinema" theme was also gloriously embraced by Giuseppe Tornatore in his magnificent CINEMA PARADISO. Yeah, it may fall short of his more renowned intellectual works, but the 'bittersweet fantasy-comedy' with a whimsical underpinning stands as one of his most accomplished films all-around.

Terrific capsule as always.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam for the kind words. I've read about Sherlock Jr. though haven't watched it yet, and am aware how Woody reversed the Keaton film's premise. Yeah, Cinema Paradiso, Tornatore's glowing tribute to the medium, could very well have been inspired from this film, as also, I feel, Lars von Triar's Dancer in the Dark. Thanks again Sam.

Jon said...

What's interesting in this film is that the "movie world" becomes more real to Mia Farrow's character than her real world. Woody taps into something here and it's definitely a yearning to get lost and be absorbed by the cinema. Good stuff.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Johny. Yes, and I guess that was even more apt during the gloomy days of Depression Era than anytime else. But then again, the film's ending provides a reality-check for Cecelia - after all, somewhere a line needs to be drawn as far as fantasy & escapism go.