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The Purple Rose of Cairo

Screening on Film
Directed by Woody Allen.
With Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello.
US, 1985, 35mm, color and b&w, 82 min.

The last of eight films shot for Woody Allen, Willis’ cinematography for The Purple Rose of Cairo perfectly evokes two distinct worlds – the bleak Depression-era New Jersey that is home to Mia Farrrow’s heartbroken housewife, and the glamorous black and white movie world that provides her sole escape from the doldrums of the everyday.  At once a celebration and poetic cautionary tale of film spectatorship – and the potential dangers of trying to escape from reality through the cinema– Purple Rose executes a delicate balancing act between fantasy and fact, anchored by Willis’ assertively simple color palette and, as always, elegantly controlled camera work. As befitting a film about the love of movie-watching, only the Jewel movie theater is bathed in a warmly ethereal amber glow, contrasting the washed-out tones of the dishpan hand world outside.

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