March 30, 2015

Casablanca

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I remember not expecting to like Casablanca as much as I did prior to watching it for the first time years ago.  But, like its legions of admirers I find myself utterly taken by this film, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is exactly that just works. I think it may be because of its storytelling--it is nuanced yet effortless, it doesn't try so desperately hard like the many other films its era with its cliche and moral pandering.

It's funny how things work; Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman allegedly had no passion for the film, and I recall Inside Oscar mentioning that Casablanca's win over the likes of For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Song of Bernadette came as a surprise--tickets to the latter films were too pricey and as a result, the many extras that made up the Academy opted to vote for Casablanca instead. So technically one could call Casablanca a fan-favorite, a crowd-pleaser of sorts, and to a certain extent I suppose that's true...but it's so much more than that. It's pure, unadulterated, blissfully immaculate cinema, powered by a tale of romance and the raging star power of two iconic Hollywood stars. Bogie exemplifies what it is to be a traditional leading man here, cool and smooth and solemn. Ingrid Bergman is breathtaking, and I spend each rewatch lost in the way she tells Ilsa's story with her eyes. And together with classic dialogue anyone can recognize and "As Time Goes By" equals timeless cinema, a hallmark of the era's filmmaking . I'm not sure there's a single flaw I can call out; Casablanca is one of those films that I can watch repeatedly--that I have watched repeatedly--and have never bored of it.


2 comments:

  1. Absolutely agree. And like you, I didn't plop myself in front of it with full intent to pay attention until the latter half of my 20s, despite having read all about it and its classic status for many year before.

    It is an extremely adult film, having a great point in common with Now Voyager, in that the lead characters sacrifice intense personal longing for an inarguable greater good. Like Voyager it earns the aching heart and free flowing tears of its audience, even as we agree with the painful correctness of Rick and Ilsa's choice. And again like Voyager the outstanding supporting cast, Henreid, Rains (hello again, you guys), Greenstreet, Veidt, Dooley Wilson and Lorre never hit a flat note.

    Magnificent. Here's looking at you kid, indeed.

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  2. Initially (teenager years), I didn't 'get' "Casablanca's appeal. To me it was just another old, melodramatic, corny film. Seeing it years later (and several times, I might add) I appreciate it so much more. First of all, Bogey and Bergman have chemistry to spare, the supporting ensemble is incomparable and the cinematography is 'black-and-white' at its best. I wouldn't exactly describe "Casablanca" as film noir but it definitely has aspects of that, especially during the second half.

    Most importantly, this film moves. Curtiz directs with a fluid hand and there is not a wasted scene or moment. This is one 'greatest-films-of-all-time' that's also fun to watch. It may not be 'high art' but it sure is great entertainment.

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