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The Purple Rose of Cairo []



“You make love without fading out?” – Tom Baxter

The Purple Rose of Cairo is possibly my favorite Woody Allen film of all time… or perhaps tied with a couple other of his classics. In it we have some of his sharpest comedic screenwriting and a few concepts that will keep philosophy 101 students in discussion for decades to come.

It stars Mia Farrow as Cecilia, a woman struggling to support herself and her abusive, gambling and out of work husband (played by Danny Aiello) during the great depression. Her only escape from this drudgery is regular visits to the local cinema. When the lights dim, she gets whisked away in stories of adventure, romance and carefree living.

She particularly is enamored with the film the Purple Rose of Cairo (the film within our film!). Cecilia makes repeated trips to catch the Purple Rose and watches the story of bubbly society folk on an Egyptian expedition. After several viewings, she starts to notice slight inconsistencies with one of the character’s performance. Tom Baxter, played by Jeff Daniels, seems to be losing his timing and is possibly looking off into the audience. Eventually, he breaks character and talks to Cecilia from the screen. She nervously replies and Baxter walks out of the film and materializes in the theater.

The two dash off in a heap of commotion and the ex-film character appears to be the ideal romantic partner despite naïveté in real world dealings. His knowledge base consists of what was written for his character. For example, when dining, the couple are embarrassed to discover that Baxter’s cash supply is simply prop money.

Eventually, a surreal love triangle… or better yet, love square forms. When Gil Shepherd (also played by Jeff Daniels), the actor who portrayed Baxter, discovers that his character has left the film, he heads to New Jersey to convince his creation to re-enter The Purple Rose of Cairo. Whilst attempting to salvage his reputation and make everything go back to normal, Shepherd then falls for our leading lady. Does Cecilia leave her husband? Does she run off with the brave and compassionate, but fictional Tom Baxter? Or does she chose Gil Shepherd, the dashing and vain movie star?

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