Damn you, Woody Allen! Bein’ all Smart ‘n….Stuff!

I hate Woody Allen right now….just a little bit…. **Spoiler Warning**

Summer Film Challenge 2011
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Date:  6 August 2011
My Rating:  9/10

Damn you, Woody Allen!!  I got so into this movie and then it just dropped me flat.  The best way I can describe it is that it is a groaner. For those of you comedically uncultured, let me give you an example:

Twin brothers, one named Emal and the other Juan, grew up and moved out of the country. A year later, their mother receives from Juan a letter and picture of himself. His mother sighs and mentions she wishes she had a picture from Emal as well. ‘Why,’ replies her husband, ‘if you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Emal.’

At first you have no idea where it is going. It seems sort of random and odd, yet you are intrigued. Then there is a slight turn towards the middle and you begin to realize you know where it is going. From there you just watch it unfold until it takes the final turn at the end and then you realize how frustratingly funny it is.  Thus – the groan.

And thus The Purple Rose of Cairo.  At the beginning you really don’t know what is going on and where this insanity is headed.  As the film progresses you develop a belief (or perhaps a hope) of where the film is headed. As it goes on, however you begin to realize what it is trying to say and you watch it begin to spiral to that point. Finally at the end, with the last little twists taken care of, you arrive at the truth – Allen told you this was coming throughout the whole film and you just have to deal with the fact that he was right.  When I watched the movie I got towards the end and started saying to myself, “Don’t you do it, Woody!” Don’t you make your point!” But of course he did, and that is what makes this movie great.

Basically the point is this (and I can’t remember who said it in the film):  It Only Ever Happens In The Movies.  Cecilia, as well as we the audience, get suckered into truly wishing that things would turn out for the best – like they always do in the movies.  But of course that is exactly what Woody Allen wanted us to thing.  He masterfully manipulates our expectations so that when the true ending occurs, we see it new and fresh just like Cecilia. And while we hate him for it at the time, we realize upon reflection exactly how brilliant the thing truly is.

One final note about the style – I would say that this is the second of the very few ways in which a Defeatist film can really work.  It does pretend to be something that is fantastic and worth my time, and then drops it all at the end.  However when you take time to think about it, that was the purpose of the film – to get us to think.  It is meant to be jarring so that we can see the true brilliance of it.  I know I use that word a lot but in this film it has been earned – it doesn’t really go anywhere plot-wise but it takes us places spectacular. It is defeatist with an ironic point – to BE defeatist.

The acting was phenomenal!!!  Jeff Daniels definitely had the role I thought he always deserved (having watched all of his work in reverse).  His portrayal of two versions of the same man was great. I loved his boyish enthusiasm as Gil and his uncanny perfection as Baxter. Truly a phenomenal performance and he had a great leading lady to play off of!  Mia Farrow destroyed the role of the woman who loved the movies – who got lost in the reels of the cinema.  Really I feel she captured the essence of what all of us who know and are passionate about Story feel like – the immeasurable spaces we get lost in when we open ourselves to fictional lives.  Great work all around in that department.

The only issues I had with The Purple Rose of Cairo were with the flapper soundtrack – which was definitely a bit much at times – and the out-of-the-blue move by Actor Gil at the ending. His decision seemed unmotivated and while I guess it makes sense to say he put his career first, there wasn’t any explanation of that really.  He just wasn’t there all of a sudden (Yes it plays into the moral, but it still didn’t make much sense).  Other than that though it was really an amazing film that I am glad to say I have seen.  I look forward to more of Woody’s work in the future.

Why we in the Film Business do what we do

So there you go!  One more of the Summer Film Challenge down and out of the way.  I still have a long way to go to finish everything from that list so expect a lot of reviews in the next month or two. Thanks for sticking around and while you’re at it, check out my friend Ryan’s reviews of this film and, one of my personal favorites, Harvey over at his BLOG.

Up next is that Humphrey Bogart classic – “The Maltese Falcon” – which should be up fairly soon. Also, don’t think I have forgotten about the Legend of Korra review on my Art of the Trailer blog.  That will be up shortly after this one is posted.  Thanks again and check back real soon for more good stuff!

BTW – My Assassin’s Creed review has had three 100+ view days in a row now!  That’s awesome! Thanks for all the support!

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Author: Tyler D. Welch

Filmmaker, Storyteller, Scholar

3 thoughts on “Damn you, Woody Allen! Bein’ all Smart ‘n….Stuff!”

  1. Thanks for sending some traffic my way! Woody Allen is a jazz enthusiast. He plays clarinet in his own band. That’s why the score is all jazz music.

    1. It’s not really the style of music, because it fits the period. What it doesn’t fit are a lot of the scenes. It gets rather dramatic towards the end and we get Flapper stuff. Just didn’t work for me or for the film at all.

      1. Woody Allen loves him some jazz. Can’t really blame him for that. It may not have worked for you or the film as a whole, but it must have worked for him.

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