This 1985 Woody Allen flick starring Mia Farrow in the lead role is an absolute gem. The title comes from the film within a film that Farrow’s character keeps rewatching to escape the drudgery of her life. Her marriage is so horrid, it’s farcical and she works as a waitress but seems to be rather useless at it. So she delves into the movies instead, the classic escapism reason, to feel like you’re somewhere you’re not, like the Cairo or some exotic whatever that the film in film refers to. But the film’s purposely set in New Jersey during the Great Depression, the most unglam period and place ever.

She’s pretty much just a damsel in distress, played like a neurotic female version of Woody Allen, so I dunno why any guy’d sweep her off her feet. But there is! I mean are! Two! Of the same guy! Jeff Bridges plays both Tom Baxter, the character that Farrow’s Cecilia simply adores, as well as Gil Sheperd, the actor who plays him. After watching Purple Rose 5 times, Tom Baxter breaks the fourth wall within the film and acknowledges her, commenting on how beautiful she was and how much she must’ve loved the film to watch it so often. So he decides that he’ll just walk off screen into the real world and meet her. The film is then left with a gaping hole, despite that Baxter was simply a minor character. The cast then breaks the fourth wall as well and end up playing cards in a house rather than acting and they even have arguments with the audience in the cinema.

Meanwhile, the film’s producer learns of this and informs Gil Sheperd, with the intent to stop this as it might produce bad publicity. Gil then rushes over to New Jersey to try to find his double but also falls for Cecilia, sparking off an intriguing love triangle.

The film is at once a satire on life and cinema and the relationship between the two. It’s really an extremely clever idea that plays out in classic Woody Allen style, which basically means a lot of neuroticism and Bergman inspired existentialist yearning as well as loads of fast talking comedy. The film within a film concept really works wonders because you’re watching one yourself and put yourself in Cecilia’s shoes often only this one goes beyond reason and logic to suggest a fantasy that is so close to real but also incredibly personal. It also gets a good rip into Hollowwood, actors in general and cold war anti commie hysteria.

I still rate Annie Hall and Manhattan or Interiors but The Purple Rose Of Cairo wins a ton of marks for simply having a rather astounding concept.

The shot above shows Farrow responding to what she thinks is Tom Baxter breaking the fourth wall. I like how the seats kinda have that endless hall of mirrors as well as the bored patron in the foreground that gives such a sense of normality and boringness. Farrow isn’t even particularly highlighted, she’s just another face in the crowd.