Title: The Purple Rose of Cairo
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Director/Writer: Woody Allen
Music: Dick Hyman
Cinematography: Gordon Willis
THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO captivates audience as an ultimate escapism for a cinephile, and ends with a masterstroke of reality check, Woody Allen’s quixotic fantasy sets in the Depression era, Cecilia (Farrow) is a New Jersey housewife, stuck in a dead-end marriage, her husband Monk (Aiello) is a jobless loafer, treats her badly and they are childless, her clumsiness also puts her job as a waitress hanging on a string and the only thing can cheer her up is watching movies in the local nickelodeon.
Now playing is a film called THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, Cecilia has watched it many times, but after Monk blatantly fooling around with his mistress in their own home, a downcast Cecilia has nowhere to go but watch the movie again and again, then, an inconceivable silver-screen magic happens, a minor character in the movie, Tom Baxter (Daniels), who is an intrepid adventurer, walks out of the screen, materialises in the real life and expresses his affections to her, Cecilia is swooned by the unexpected romance, Tom’s pure devotion and unworldly nature is a timely remedy for her to forget about the bitter reality, during their rendezvous, the two get closer, although the real world is drastically different from where Tom comes from, he is head-strong to stay with Cecilia, at one point, Tom invites Cecilia to enter the movie with him, offers her a tour of the dreamland, although the champagne tastes like ginger ale.
On the other hand, where lies Allen’s most incredible sleight-of-hand, the two worlds collide with astonishing visual trickery, the black-and-white cast of THE PURPOSE ROSE OF CAIRO, breaks the fourth wall and directly communicates (sometimes bickers) with the audience, Tom’s absence causes a pandemonium, the flick cannot proceed to its next scene; the theatre cannot turn off the projector lest Tom will be left in the real world forever; whereas the film’s producer is at his wits’ end of this unprecedented plight, the aspiring actor Gil Shepherd (Daniels) who plays Tom in the picture, is apprehensive about his career will come to a premature end in light of Tom’s madcap behaviour, files to New Jersey, tries to settle the score. Once he finds about Cecilia, they strike an unexpected fondness to each other. Now it is Cecilia has the final say, whom she really wants, Tom or Gil, basically the same guy but one is a blank sheet emerging from the silver screen and another exists in real world, who promises to bring her to Hollywood. It is a tough decision, Cecilia makes a more logical choice, and everything turns out to be a pipe-dream, life continues, but mercifully, there will always be a new movie to fall in love with, that’s why we love cinema!
This fetching comedy has been my second favourite Allen’s film by far (just after ANNIE HALL of course), Farrow and Daniels (utterly refreshing in his dual-faceted charisma) are incredible in their almost screwball dynamism, as for Aiello, manages to leave his own marks of promise despite the cardboard design of a disqualified husband, there is a faint hope that he may learn something from the lesson, which could be the best thing for our ugly-duckling, shattered in her dream but never stop dreaming.