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Spectatorship in cinema

by Brian Davis

This is a sequence from Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo," a film about spectatorship as well as the ontological boundaries between reality and fiction. Cecilia (Mia Farrow), the lead character in the film, is an avid movie-goer. One of her primary motivations for going to the cinema is escape. Her real life is painful and bleak, and the immersive experience of cinema affords her temporary relief. After Cecilia's repetitive viewings of the new film "The Purple Rose of Cairo," the character of Tom Baxter in the fictional film crosses over from the fictive world into the "real" world, in which Cecilia lives. Toward the end of this sequence, the common notion that film spectatorship is a form of escape from reality gets inverted: the fictional world "literally" collides and crosses over into the "real" world of the film. As a result, the film foregrounds an investigation of the ontological instabilities between real and fictive worlds through the trope of spectatorship.

Spectatorship and ontological boundaries in cinema

by Brian Davis

This is a sequence from Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo," a film about spectatorship as well as the ontological boundaries between reality and fiction. Cecilia (Mia Farrow), the lead character in the film, is an avid movie-goer. One of her primary motivations for going to the cinema is escape. Her real life is painful and bleak, and the immersive experience of cinema affords her temporary relief. After Cecilia's repetitive viewings of the new film "The Purple Rose of Cairo," the character of Tom Baxter in the fictional film crosses over from the fictive world into the "real" world, in which Cecilia lives. Toward the end of this sequence, the common notion that film spectatorship is a form of escape from reality (which the film interrogates and perhaps even valorizes) gets inverted: the fictional world "literally" collides and crosses over into the "real" world of the film. As a result, the film foregrounds an investigation of the ontological instabilities between real and fictive worlds through the trope of spectatorship. As the film progresses, the world of the cinema destabilizes the "real" world of the film. In other words, Allen suggests that we enter the fictional worlds of cinema just as much they enter our very own "real" worlds.

What do we do when we go to the movies?

This is a sequence from Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo," a film about spectatorship as well as the boundaries between reality and fiction.

from The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Creator: Woody Allen
Posted by Brian Davis
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