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USA 1985
Directed by
Woody Allen
82 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Purple Rose Of Cairo

Mia Farrow plays Cecilia, a mousey New Jersey housewife during the Depression who supports her oaf of husband (Danny Aiello) by working at a diner and taking in laundry, escaping her drab existence at the local movie theatre where she dotes on the era-typical depictions of glamorous lives of the idle rich. One day one such character, gentleman adventurer Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), steps down from the screen and sweeps Cecilia off her feet.

Allen is much under-rated as craftsman and coming between  two other “retro” films, Zelig (1983) and Radio Days (1987), The Purple Rose Of Cairo is of one the director’s most felicitous forays, part homage, part deconstruction, into recreating the style of the 1930s Hollywood dream factory.

In addition to the impressive technical achievement, Allen also  neatly explores the illusory nature of cinema with inspired economy.  Tom Baxter is a perfect romantic screen hero but he is also only as much as the God-like scriptwriter has created  of him,  Gil Shepherd  (Daniels again), the actor playing him on the other hand is a real human being but he is devoid of  Tom’s qualities. Cecilia can tell the difference but ultimately she needs the dream.

Drawing on his long experience as a writer and director Allen rides the dream/reality interface that Hollywood movies embody with typically unassuming and sharply observed wit in what is one of the small jewels in the director’s crown.




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