Casablanca (1942 USA)

casablanca01If any visitor to this blog doesn’t read this review, they’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of their lives.  I have to give credit to screen writer Julius Epstein for all his quotable lines. One of the greats is: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Such throwaway chit chat has become the stuff of legend of course but I have to admit that it is Humphrey Bogart that is numero uno for me here. He had a timeless masculinity that is reassuring. His nasal whine was so confident that he seemed tall, although he was short by modern standards. He was attractively ugly. Whatever he had, the man was magic and probably the best Hollywood actor of them all.

Love and sacrifice during WWII underlie the story about a café owner named Rick (Humphrey Bogart), and his link to two intellectual refugees from Nazi occupied France. Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) seek asylum here in politically neutral Casablanca and, like other European refugees, gravitate to Rick’s upscale café, near the city’s airport, with its revolving searchlight. Rick is a middle-aged cynic who also has a touch of sentimentalism, especially for people in need, like Ilsa and Victor. The film’s story is ideal for romantics everywhere.

Much of the plot takes place inside Rick’s café, an ornate nightclub with archways and high ceilings. Rick’s is a gathering place for an eclectic mix of patrons, from locals to those who have arrived from countries throughout Europe. It’s this deliciously international ambiance of Rick’s café that renders this film so appealing, with a variety of interesting accents, clothes, and uniforms. And, of course, there’s Sam the piano player, who plays all the favourites, including “As Time Goes By”.

All of the film’s technical elements are excellent including the script, with its colourful characters, like the debonair Captain Renault (Claude Rains); and Signor Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet), the articulate and portly “leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca”. And a minor character that made an impression on me was the guitar playing female singer at Rick’s (Corinna Mura), whose beautifully operatic voice was an unexpected delight in this smoke-filled saloon. The film’s dialogue, though substantial, is clever and lively, like when Captain Renault observes Rick escorting an intoxicated woman out of the bar: “How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that; some day they may be scarce.”

casablanca

High-contrast B&W lighting renders a noir look. And that pounding score at the film’s beginning is stunning; it evokes a feeling of far-off adventure. “Casablanca” differs from traditional noir films, mostly as a result of its ending. Rick must make a choice between his own interests and the interests of others. The choice he makes enjoins viewers to a sense of courage and optimism, an individual’s example of proper collective behavior during war time. This movie is sited by many critics and viewers alike as one of the top three greatest films ever made. It’s easy to see why. It contains probably the greatest dialogue ever written for the screen. It stars two screen icons in their greatest roles and a superb supporting cast.

It’s directed by Michael Curtiz with a complete lack of pretension. There’s nothing overtly artistic about it, or any sign that anybody involved was trying too hard. Essentially this was a gathering of classy professionals who set out to accomplish one thing: make an entertaining film. In the process, they might have made the greatest. Unlike so many of the other classics of this period, you never have to view it “in context” to appreciate and enjoy it. Rock solid entertainment anchored by smart writing and competent direction. It translates well in any day and age. Play it again, Sam, and it gets even better As Time Goes By.

mediumCasablanca

Advertisements

Comments

  1. Great review! Makes me wanna watch it, never have so far. I need to catch up on my classics.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! 🙂 I am a big Bogart fan, and its fun checking out the legendary pictures to see if they stack up to their reputation. I admit there are many I still haven’t seen, like Citizen Kane.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: