Label: Twilight Time
Released: January 20, 2015
Genre: Comedy / Romance
Synopsis: Cecilia’s life is turned upside-down when a beloved character from a movie steps off the screen and whisks her away on an extremely odd, fantastical romance.
Special Features: Isolated Stereo Music Track / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively at Screen Archives Entertainment.
Woody Allen’s gem of a fantasy is drenched in nostalgia for the era – Depression Era 1930s, the elegance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, warm woody tones, tweed outfits and caps, and the cacophony of street diners – but it’s probably most beloved for exploring the secret fantasy of many movie lovers: What would happen if a character you adored in a movie came to life?
The clashing of realities isn’t treated like a terror threat nor a monstrous Godzilla-like appearance, but a giant conundrum spawning a series of mini-conundrums which only Allen could dramatize with a deft lightness and wit. Everything goes loopy when waitress Cecilia (Mia Farrow) drops one too many dishes and is turfed from the diner, losing the lone job that’s been keeping the roof over the heads of herself and the gambling bully who happens to be her husband (Danny Aiello), a ‘fair’ guy who gambles away chunks of her income, and warns Cecilia whenever she’s going to be smacked for being lippy.
Exhausted from an abusive marriage, Cecilia returns to her only source of joy and escapism – the neighbourhood movie theatre – and watches “The Purple Rose of Cairo” multiple times in a row, until explorer extraordinaire Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) stops interacting with the other characters, addresses Cecelia in the audience, and steps off the screen, whisking her away for a short-term romance while everyone in the movie is literally left in limbo of bickering, drinking, and wise-cracking.
Allen’s genius has everyone play the event straight: patrons are shocked but soon annoyed the ending they paid for has been put on hold; the cinema manager is in a prolonged kerfuffle, worried his business reputation’s been clobbered; the movie’s producers at RKO fear other characters may get the same idea, and step off the screen throughout America; and there’s actor Gil Shepherd (Daniels again) who may find cinematic clones of himself wandering around the country, ruining what should’ve been his breakthrough film, propelling him to star status.
Being just a screen character, Baxter carries a wad of funny money, remembers only his screen past, and is wholly unfamiliar with things outside of the film’s world – like hookers (of which one of the ladies is played by Glenne Headley). When rising screen star Shepherd finally meets Cecilia and his screen double, there’s a gentlemanly duel of egos and yearnings, but Allen’s finale is surprisingly bleak, denying the real audience (us) the cinematic happy ending we want, and opting for an ending that resets Cecilia back to the reality of being an abused wife, hiding out in the theatre until she figures out her next step, while Astaire and Rogers perform an elegant routine in the foreground.
END OF SPOILER
The sweetness that dominates the film is as consistent as Gordon Willis’ warm cinematographic tones, Stuart Wurtzel’s beautiful production design, and Dick Hyman’s bubbly score which Twilight Time’s isolated in bubbly stereo on a separate audio track.
Allen fans will certainly head-scratch MGM’s reasoning for licensing rather than releasing their own non-limited Blu-ray, but TT’s music track makes this a unique release, since few of Allen’s film contain original scores, and even fewer are preserved as stereo music-only tracks. (Hyman’s music was only released on tape and LP.)
MGM’s print is in decent shape, and the HD transfer retains the film grain and fine details in this beautiful ode to light comedies and the wise-cracking yet gentler world that existed in dreamy studio productions during the early thirties.
Woody Allen films released by Twilight Time include Love and Death (1975), Interiors (1978), Stardust Memories (1980), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1983), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Radio Days(1987), and Crimes and Misdemeanors(1989), and the Allen starring in the Red Menace satire The Front (1976).
© 2015 Mark R. Hasan
Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review