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March 29, 1985 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-03-29
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Woody's
wistful
fantasy
The Purple Rose Of Cairo
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Mia Farrow and Jeff Daniels
By Byron L. Bull
OODY ALLEN'S The Purple Rose of
Cairo is a clever but modest little
fantasy about fantasies. It's a sweet
and sentimental look at the American
love affair with the movies, and though
hardly as rich in wit and perception as
Allen's modern comedy-romances like
Annie Hall and Manhattan, or purely
ingenius toys like the recent Zelig, it
has its charms.
The film opens in the midst of the
Depression, a time when Americans
were broke, yet were flocking into
movie theaters with a fervor never seen
since: the wretchedness of the real
world only made the incredible fantasy
of the celuloid world that much more
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enchanting. Such a person is a woman
named Cecilia (played by Mia Farow),
who spends her days waitressing in a
pit of a diner only to return home to an
unemployed lout of a husband (Danny
Aiello) who spends his days pitching
pennies and drinking.
Cecilia's only refuge is the local
theater, where she religiously returns
to escape into an adventure or a
musical. As things worsen, the theater
becomes the center of her life, and the
running feature-a screwball comedy
about a New York high society set
called The Purple Rose Of Cairo
becomes more real to her than the
daylight world outside. Cecilia returns
to the film again and again, and even-
tually magic happens. Ted Baxter, an
explorer-poet-adventurer looks down
from the screen into Cecilia's longing
eyes, and decides to jump down from
the screen and steal away with her.
The audience screams, the other
characters onscreen stand frozen,
awkward, without a plotline to follow;
they sit there looking back out at the
audience. The theater owner calls
Hollywood, and the film's producer and
the actor who played Baxter, -one
slightly pompous minor star named Gil
Shepherd, desperately try to track
down the lookalike fugitive before word
of the fiasco gets out to the public and
ruins his career.
Purple Rose though is a simple of-
fering, full of terrific little gags, and
nostalgic in mischievious way. Baxter,
charming and eloquent, seems the man
of Cecilia's dreams, but he's hopelessy
out of place. He's naive and single
minded, trustworthy and pure by nature
but ultimately only one dimen-
sional. When he pulls Cecilia into a
passionate kiss, he suddenly breaks
free because the scene hasn't faded out,
and he has no idea what to do next. He
stares uncomprehendingly into
Cecilia's eyes when she explains that in
the real world, "People get old and sick
and never find true love." Ted-Baxter
is the perfect physical embodiment of a
fantasy, and of course he has no place
in this world.
Gil Sheperd catches up with them,
and seem as enchanted by Cecilia as
Baxter and he begins to soften. Soon
he's wooing her affections as well.
Even after Baxter takes her on a
whirlwind, marvelous tour through his
own black and white world, a fairytale
New York that could only exist on film,
she's eventually drawn back to reality
and all its uncertainties.
Most of the story is devoted to

f
'

Allen's Purple Rose: Agreeable , enchanting fun

milking the gimmick of a movie
character wandering through the real
world, the plotting is loose and thin, and
many elements, notably the romantic
triangle and the sense of hopeless
romanticism are dusted off and put
through familiar motions. The film has
an absurd abandonment, when
something wonderfully ridiculous can
still happen at any second. It's not a
perfect formula, and at times, par-
ticularly the unexpectedly dark over-
tones by the end, don't quite work. But
for the most part it's agreeable, even
enchanting fun.
The film's only major flaw is the lack
of characterizations. Cecilia in par-
ticular is the sort of vapid, vulnerable
little sweet thing Charlie Chaplin used
to fall for, a pretty, innocent, sentimen-
tal device. She's in the sort of role Allen
himself used to play in his own pictures,
but without the wit and snappy one
liners. The only thing that saves
Farrow's otherwise generic character
is her surprisingly radiant presence, an
absolutely thrilling warmth that will
probably surprise a few people.

Jeff Daniels at least has a technical
challenge with two-roles to play with,
and he succeeds admirably in creating
two very distinct people who, after
awhile, don't even seem to look that
similar. There really isn't much depth
to either of the roles, they're both just
clever pieces in Allen's machinery. But
like Farrow, Daniels has a natural, af-
fable screen presence.
I can see some people disliking this
film, and a lot of their criticism I
couldn't refute. It is a gimmicky
movie, like Zelig, and it is at times too
detached form its characters and more
concerned with its own ingenuity. It's
also manipulative in its sentiment, par-
ticularly its bittersweet ending, almost
to a false extreme. But there's no
ignoring the gentleness, the genuine af-
fection Allen holds for the old films he
both parodies and pays tribute to. Pur-
ple Rose may be based on a one joke
premise that can only be played out just
so far, but at a trim 84 minutes it's a
wistfully enchanting piece of escapism.
It's not indicative of Allen's true genius,
but even as a minor effort it's certainly
something very special.

:
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-

STOP LOOK AN LISTEN

Saturday
April 13th
HILL AUDITORIUM
8:00 P.M.

{\ 4

-Z

U of M MEN'S GLEE CLUB
Patrick Gardner, DIRECTOR
125th Annual Spring Concert

Ab /

TICKETS
AVAILABLE AT
HILL BOX OFFICE

$6, $5, $4, (students $2)
April 8 - 12; 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
April 13; 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

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12 Weekend/Friday, March 29, 1985

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