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.
This 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.