The Purple Rose of Cairo

Lecture by Marilyn Fabe

“I just met a wonderful man. He's fictional, but you can't have everything,” confides Cecilia (Mia Farrow) in Woody Allen's tribute to the wonders of filmic fiction. Farrow is the fragile and luminous center of this Depression-era fantasy, a lonesome dreamer trapped in a New Jersey factory town and an unfulfilling marriage to an unemployed oaf (Danny Aiello). The promise of fulfillment comes at the local bijou, during one of her many viewings of a movie called The Purple Rose of Cairo, when the adventure's hero (Jeff Daniels) repays the housewife's rapt attention by stepping down off the black-and-white screen and into Cecilia's dreary yet full-color world. Mixing comedy with metaphysics, Allen fluidly shifts between layers of illusion, between “real” and reel, lingering in that most magical space between.

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