Archive for the purple rose of cairo

The Purple Rose of Cairo

Posted in Film, Woody Allen with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 30 September, 2008 by Ally

Woody Allen, 1985

They always say you ought to write what you know, which is why so many films chronicle the creative process. From Sunset Boulevard to Adaptation, Hollywood’s favourite subject is itself. But great as they are, most of these films seem determined to make the audience understand the pain of the artist, the stress of putting together a production, how hard it is to make something look effortless. It’s rare to find a film that appreciates the finished product above all, and understands the spell it casts over the ordinary person sat there in the dark.

Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo is one of those films. Set in Depression-era New Jersey, it stars Mia Farrow as Cecilia. She’s a timid woman with an abusive husband (Danny Aiello), and a stressful waitressing job which she constantly jeopardizes with her clumsiness and daydreaming. Her only comfort is the cinema, where she can lose herself in shimmering Hollywood gloss for an hour and a half.

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Sherlock Jr.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 7 September, 2008 by Ally

Don't you miss the days when films were "attractions"?

Sherlock Jr is only 44 minutes long, including credits. Buster Keaton manages to cram so much into just five reels, it boggles the mind. Not a second is wasted, from small-scale gags involving lost dollar bills or poisoned drinks, to a nailbiting sequence in which Keaton unwittingly rides the handlebars of an unmanned motorcycle. The cycle miraculously dodges perilous obstacles, clearing an oncoming train and driving along a collapsing bridge before he finally realises the driver has fallen off. These stunts were genuinely performed by Keaton. He only once used a stunt double (for a pole vaulting trick in College), and he would frequently even stand in for the other actors. Throughout his career he risked his life countless times for the sake of a laugh. Years after filming Sherlock Jr, he would discover that one stunt fractured his neck – that very take is in the finished film!

Buster Keaton’s nameless character is the projectionist at a movie house, as well as an amateur detective. He is also rather fond of a young lady (Kathryn McGuire), but he has a rival suitor (Ward Crane). When the suitor steals and pawns a pocket watch belonging to the lady’s father (Joe Keaton), the evidence is planted on Buster and he is ejected from the family home. Heartbroken, he goes back to work in the projection room. Here he falls asleep and dreams of stepping into Hearts and Pearls, the film he has been projecting. He becomes Sherlock Jr, a detective hired to solve the mystery of the missing pearls, while the other characters take on the images of their real life counterparts. But as Sherlock Jr, Buster is able to outwit his enemies at every turn. Continue reading