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Tribute to Gordon Willis: The Purple Rose of Cairo

Wednesday, September 24

Panel discussion on Willis’s life and legacy with Douglas C. Hart (Willis’s assistant cameraman on PURPLE ROSE, ZELIG, and others), Tibor Sands (Willis’s assistant cameraman on THE LANDLORD, THE GODFATHER, and others), and Craig DiBona (Willis’s camera operator on THE GODFATHER III, PRESUMED INNOCENT, and others)!

35mm print

With his passing last May, the film world lost a true giant in cinematographer Gordon Willis (1931-2014). Nicknamed the “Prince of Darkness” by friend and fellow director of photography Conrad Hall, Willis amassed a staggering filmography over his nearly 40-year career, including collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy), Alan Pakula (All the President’s Men, The Parallax View), and Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Manhattan). Willis was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2010, the Academy citing his “unsurpassed mastery of light, shadow, color, and motion,” and his incomparable eye and distinctive approach forever revolutionized the way movies look.

For the inaugural event in our new Celluloid Dreams series — devoted to screening films projected on film — it only seemed fitting to honor Willis’s towering legacy. We’re thrilled to present a 35mm print of Woody Allen’s bittersweet comic fantasy THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, the eighth and final collaboration between Allen and Willis and one of contemporary cinema’s most moving tributes to movie fandom. Mia Farrow stars as a movie-mad 1930s housewife whose big screen crush (Jeff Daniels) steps down off the movie screen and into her life, much to the chagrin of her abusive husband (Danny Aiello). The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with several of Willis’s longtime friends and collaborators.

“Willis’s eighth and final film for Allen pulls together all his strengths in one irresistible package. As the story skews between the hard scrabble of Depression-era New Jersey and the fantastical fictional world of THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, so Willis toggles between bleak, dialed down colour for the contemporary scenes and magical, glamorous black and white for the movie within a movie. Always thinking, Willis bathed the places where the two worlds collide — the Jewel movie house — in a warm, eternal, almost ethereal glow.” – Empire

Part of the series Celluloid Dreams

  • Country USA
  • Rating PG
  • Year 1985
  • Running Time 82 minutes
  • Director Woody Allen