Blu-ray Review: The Purple Rose of Cairo - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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The Purple Rose of Cairo sits comfortably in the middle of what could easily be considered a trilogy of Woody Allen’s best films, bookended by Broadway Danny Rose (1984) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). In what was then a very rare occurrence for a film he directed, Allen himself didn’t appear in Purple Rose. The fairy tale quality of this gentle romantic comedy (and it is both romantic and humorous, something quite a few more modern “rom-coms” can’t claim) is carried by the pitch perfect Mia Farrow. This might be the best of her many great roles in Allen’s films. She plays an unhappily married waitress, Cecilia, in Depression-era New Jersey. Her unfulfilling life becomes wildly exciting when a character, Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), from one of favorite films literally steps off the screen and woos her.

Though it could’ve devolved into high-concept shenanigans in lesser hands, Allen explores the various possibilities of this fantasy without ever succumbing to cheap, easy laughs. Cecilia’s life isn’t all that terrible, it’s just boring. Her husband Monk (Danny Aiello) is out of work, cheating on her, and both physically and verbally abusive. The movie theater is Cecilia’s safe haven, and it’s easy to interpret the emergence of Tom Baxter in the real world as something that occurs exclusively in her imagination. While under-appreciated both at home and at work, Cecilia so desires to be loved that she wills this what-if scenario into being. Allen, however, throws caution to the wind, abandoning logic as he shows the studio execs catching wind of Tom Baxter, of their production The Purple Rose of Cairo, entering the real world. Things get deliciously complicated once the actor who portrays Baxter, Gil Shepherd (also Daniels) learns of his doppelgänger’s existence.

Purple Rose of Cairo cover (214x280).jpgThis jewel of a bittersweet comedy has been brought to Blu-ray by specialty label Twilight Time, who’ve issued a limited edition of just 3,000 copies. Though an upgrade over the previous DVD edition, this isn’t one of the best Woody Allen high definition presentations (Twilight Time’s presentations of Broadway Danny Rose and Radio Days are in better shape). The main problem here is print flaws. Though clarity is reasonably enhanced from the old DVD, the abundance of black and white specs flitting across the screen is disappointing. The DTS-HD MA 1.0 mix is a bit on the quiet side, but after boosting the volume a bit more than is usually required, I didn’t hear any problems with the fidelity of the film’s modest sound design.

As is almost universally true of all Woody Allen films, there are no real extras to speak of here. We get Twilight Time’s customary isolated music track (offered in DTS-HD MA 2.0) and the theatrical trailer. Julie Kirgo contributes another of her well-written essays to the Blu-ray booklet. This one offers a particularly impassioned endorsement of what just might be Woody Allen’s tastiest confections. She makes the astute observation that the reason for public indifference in the face of so much critical praise was probably down to Purple Rose’s inherent sadness.

To order the limited Blu-ray edition of The Purple Rose of Cairo, visit Twilight Time’s exclusive distributor Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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