Wednesday, October 21, 2009

'Purple Rose of Cairo' Always Worth Watching

I have long been a fan of Woody Allen.

By the time of his well–publicized personal difficulties in the 1990s, I had been enjoying his films for many years. After the word got around that he had been dating — and then married — the adopted daughter of his former lover, Mia Farrow, watching a Woody Allen film became something of a guilty pleasure for me.

But I still find myself chuckling when I watch one of his movies, even if it is one I have seen many times before. I particularly enjoy the films in which he is in front of the camera as well as behind it. Perhaps the best example of that is "Annie Hall," the film that brought him Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director as well as his only nomination for Best Actor.

That was probably his breakthrough film, the one that introduced him to a much wider audience. And I have many memories that are tied to it. One that stands out was from many years later, when I was in graduate school. A friend of mine and I were enrolled in the same journalism course, and we had to give reports in class. My friend was assigned to discuss Marshall McLuhan's writings on "hot" and "cool" media, and I brought in my videotape of "Annie Hall" so my friend could preface his remarks with a showing of the scene from that movie that included McLuhan. You can see it here:

Well, anyway ...

For more than 30 years now, "Annie Hall" has been one of Allen's best movies. But you can see another one on Turner Classic Movies tomorrow night — "The Purple Rose of Cairo."

If you never saw this gem from 1985, I won't spoil it for you — except to say that Allen spends all his time behind the camera and permits Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello and Dianne Wiest to deliver some great lines — aided by some remarkable supporting performances from folks like Van Johnson.

Strangely, it received only marginal attention at the Academy Awards, receiving a single nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Unlike some of Allen's lesser works, it was not nominated for Best Picture. And, while Allen has been nominated for Best Director half a dozen times, he received no such nomination for "Purple Rose of Cairo."

In my opinion, it deserved more recognition. No matter. Allen has always done what he wanted to do, and he almost never attends the Oscar ceremony. He wasn't even there the night "Annie Hall" was recognized as Best Picture and he received his only Best Director award.

The only time I know of that Allen attended the Oscar ceremony was in 2002, less than a year after the terrorist attacks, in an unannounced appearance in which he urged producers to continue making films in his beloved New York City.

TCM will show "The Purple Rose of Cairo" at 9 p.m. (Central) tomorrow.