Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Light and Flickering Shadows: THE PURPLE ROSE OF CIARO

Any film that opens with credits over black to the melodic melodies of Fred Astaire singing to his long time cohort Ginger Rogers has to mean that something almost magical is about to happen. The lyrics to "Check to Cheek" make me want to fall in love,  make me to swoon, make my toes tap, and my head swim. Top Hat (1935) effectively changed my life and the fact that Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) begins with Fred and Ginger's magical moment meant that something wonderful was about to begin.

The Purple Rose of Cairo is a film that holds a special place near and dear in this heart of mine. A love letter from Woody Allen to the generations of people who had and have shared a love affair with the cinema. 

The film follows Cecilia (Mia Farrow) living a dreary and dull drum life in 1930's New Jersey. She has a husband who beats her, a job as a waitress that she constantly fails at, and a resilient and beautiful relationship with the cinema. Whenever life gives her lemons, and it happens to Cecilia a lot, she rushes to the cinema to sit for hours watching life flicker to life on the screen. She spends all of her time getting lost in the black and white worlds playing out in front of her. 

After one particularly bad day, Cecilia decides to go to the cinema to see The Purple Rose of Cairo for the fifth or sixth time and all of a sudden one of the characters in the film meets her eyes and comes off the screen and into her life. Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) adventurer and explorer, has given up his life on the screen to find a new home in Cecilia's arms. This film is best discovered in the eyes of the viewer and it's a genuine pleasure to watch the drama that enfolds the world between reality and fiction. Cecilia is constantly at war with the moment she is living and the fantasy that tugs at her heartstrings. A woman who has always had nothing suddenly has the life she has always dreamed of, so what if it's fictional, as Cecilia says "You can't have everything".  Her relationship with reality prevents her from truly giving herself over to her fantasy and yet at the same time makes her heart believe that love is truly possible in life, not just in the movies. This film will leave you wanting more and breaking your heart all in the same moment. 

The Purple Rose of Cairo is one of my favorite films, it reminds me that magic is always lingering around the corner and even when the world has grown dim and painful. We will always have movies to remind us that something better and more beautiful is lurking just around the bend. 

Mia and Woody on set

Cecilia lost in wonder at the restaurant

Cecilia and her cinema

Cecilia and the actor who plays Tom Baxter in reality

One of the two most beautiful moments on film

Cecilia day dreaming about the movies she loves so much

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