Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Today's film is The Purple Rose of Cairo.  At first glance, it's a romantic comedy, so I'm like blehhh.  But let's look at the film as a whole.
Cecilia is a failure at life.  She'd rather chat about celebrity gossip than do her job.  She can't even butter toast without smashing a plate.  After breaking plate after plate, she's fired.  She also has an abusive, drunk husband, Monk (played by Danny Aiello) that she threatens to leave.  She packs her bag and after walking down the street a bit, returns home.  It is apparent this happens often.  Monk drinks, sleeps around, gambles, and does nothing to contribute to their income.
I kept looking for Woody Allen in this film, but even though he directed it, he is not in it.  Cecilia escapes her pathetic life by going to the movies.  The movie of the week at her local theater is The Purple Rose of Cairo.  She is enchanted by one of the characters, Tom Baxter, who is an archaeologist.  He is handsome, kind, charming, and perfect - the opposite of Monk.  She loves the film so much she watches it again and again.  Tom takes notice and steps right off the screen to meet her!
So I liked the fact that it's an original kind of film.  It also provides opportunities for discussion.  Cecilia shows Tom around the Tom to show him the real world. He is fascinated by everything.  She takes him to a church and questions him about God.  He assumes she means the writers of his movie.  I was reminded of the film I watched yesterday, Baraka, and was so inspired by it.  Everyone is beautiful and has so much potential.  We're not movie characters with our lives and actions carefully written out for us; we write our own destiny.  People like Cecilia are so desperate to find a point to their life that they forget to simply live.  This is how I still feel after watching these films:

You are beautiful! And you are beautiful! And you are beautiful!
And you are beautiful!  And you are beautiful!
Naturally, the absence of Tom from the film worries the filmmakers and their lawyers, especially Gil Shepherd, the actor who portrays him.  Gil goes to the theater where Tom escapes and meets Cecilia.  Later, he kisses her and she has to choose between him and Tom.  She chooses reality over perfection.  She missed out on a great opportunity to do something awesome that no one had ever done before - go inside a film and live happily however she wanted to.  If you don't take an opportunity like that, you'll miss out on something awesome.  She had her chance of a fairytale and gave it up, and now has to live with the consequences. It's a more realistic ending to a fantasy story.  I'd like to share a passage by Sylvia Plath:

I saw my life branching out before me 
like the green fig tree in the story.
From every tip of the branch
like a fat purple fig,
a wonderful future beckoned and winked.

One fig was a husband and a happy home and children.
...and another fig was a famous poet...
...and another fig was a brilliant professor...
...and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor...
...and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America...
...and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila
and a pack of other lovers with queer names
and offbeat professions.

And another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion
and beyond and above these figs were many more figs
I couldn't quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree,
starving to death,
just because I couldn't make up my mind
which of the figs I would choose.

I wanted each and every one of them,
but choosing one meant losing all the rest.
And, as I sat there, waiting to decide, 
the figs began to wrinkle and grow black
and one by one,
they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Like the figs that wither away because she couldn't choose one, Cecilia's chance of a perfect romance withered away as well.  I enjoyed watching this film and especially liked the originality of the story.  I will give this an 8/10.

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