Review: The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985)

There’s whimsy, and then there’s WHIMSY!

Written By: Woody Allen
Directed By: Woody Allen

I didn’t expect to be as floored by The Purple Rose Of Cairo as I was, but here I am having finished the film letting my readers know that I was floored. The film starts off innocently enough, it’s a period piece with characters who fit the era and specks of the typical Woody Allen charm and humor dot the screen. Very slyly Mr. Allen hides his true intentions until Cecilia has become a very real character. Mr. Allen makes sure that we are willing to follow Cecilia on whatever journey she undertakes. Thus, when the fantastical elements of The Purple Rose Of Cairo came into play I did not question them for a nanosecond.

A movie character walks off the screen and instead of being astonished I smiled and said, “oh boy.” The fantasy of The Purple Rose Of Cairo isn’t truly a fantasy, it is played straight throughout the film. That makes the melancholy tone of the picture all the more real and for a time it keeps the existential musings of Mr. Allen under wraps. The fantasy is key though, not for whether it’s real or imagined, but for whether the viewer is willing to go along with it. I dare say that if the person watching The Purple Rose Of Cairo is not accepting of the Tom Baxter character and the comedic happenings that follow his departure from the silver screen then they will not enjoy this movie. I was accepting of Tom Baxter and all the rest of the fantastical elements in The Purple Rose Of Cairo. I was accepting and I had a gay old time as a result.

I actually found myself laughing heartily on more than a few occasions. It began with slight chuckles and knowing glances at the screen. But, before I knew it I was openly guffawing at the witty dialogue and the absurdity of the comedy found in Mr. Allen’s picture. Oddly enough there isn’t much in the way of neuroticism to be found in The Purple Rose Of Cairo. Instead the film relies on observations on the reality, or unreality, of the world the film (films if one chooses to be coy) inhabits for its humor. There’s a very organic feel to every joke, I never felt manipulated or pulled into fits of laughter. Funny things happen because that’s what happens in life and I laughed mightily at the comedy of life.

Technically there isn’t a thing wrong with The Purple Rose Of Cairo. From the acting, to the cinematography, to the sound design, all the way to the direction there isn’t a misstep to be found in The Purple Rose Of Cairo. If I wasn’t laughing then I was marveling at the wonderfully assured performance of Mia Farrow. My attention was instantly grabbed by the charming beyond belief acting of Jeff Daniels, or even the easy going maliciousness of Danny Aiello. If I moved away from those aspects then the crisp cinematography of Gordon Willis or the music of Dick Hyman were equally splendid.

Meanwhile Woody Allen allows for the film to breathe. By taking such an easy going approach and bringing naturalism to the film he saves his biggest salvos until the very end. Once I realized that The Purple Rose Of Cairo wasn’t really about love or even a comedy I knew I had found a favorite. When I came to the realization that Mr. Allen’s film was about the lack of a predetermined plan in life I smiled for a long time. Cecilia makes of her life what she will, and she does so because she is human. She’s not in a movie, she doesn’t have a script to follow. There’s no plan for her life, no path she must stay on. All this time she’s been afraid to take chances in her life, but she always has that ability because of the lack of some all knowing and all seeing entity guiding her every action. Mr. Allen is slick in his themes and sly in his writing, but he is always smart and always deep in The Purple Rose Of Cairo.

I wasn’t expedtcing to come away from The Purple Rose Of Cairo proclaiming it among the very best that Woody Allen has to offer. Yet here I am telling my readers exactly that very fact. The Purple Rose Of Cairo is funny and witty, with intelligence to spare. It is a lovingly crafted motion picture that gets all the little details right. Mr. Allen has a long carer of great movies, The Purple Rose Of Cairo is but one more to add to the hit list.





12 responses to “Review: The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985)

  1. Bill, I totally agree! It’s been a while since I’ve watched Purple Rose of Cairo, but I still have fond memories and would place it on the top tier of Woody Allen’s films. The ending is also really brutal, especially after the fun of most of the story. It still works completely, however.

  2. I agree with you – Purple Rose is perfect. Its themes and the combination of humor and pathos linger, and like all the best movies, leaves its traces on your soul.

    So glad you loved it!

  3. Dan – Yeah, I didn’t mention it in my review, but watching Purple Rose was like remembering why I love Woody Allen so much. Kind of like a conversation where you reminisce about why you like something and all the positive memories come flooding back to you. Purple Rose is certainly a great movie in its own right, but within the framework of Woody Allen’s career and my relationship with his films it felt special and nostalgic in a way.

    Melissa – Exactly, Purple Rose leaves its mark on you, both in it’s heartbreak and in the exuberance I felt while watching the movie.


  5. It is indeed a great one. Thanks for the comment. 🙂


  7. Same to you mon frère. 🙂


  9. Pingback: Review: Sherlock Jr. (1924) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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