April 2, 2015

Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca


The Role: as an embittered American expatriate running a popular and nightclub in WWII neutral Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart in this film is very much what you would expect when you think of the term "leading man". I know a lot of people generally think of this performance quite fondly; I tend to be a bit more conflicted. There's something to be said about one's work being instantly recognizable after 70 years...but I think that "leading man" generally have more cons than pros.  
What I Didn't Like: I'm not trying to make a dig at Bogie's performance here. In fact, this being my third watch, I actually ended up liking him way more this time around than during my first few views. Sometimes I struggle with finding a balance between what constitutes an "iconic" performance and what's a "great" performance. There's no doubt that his performance is iconic as 1940s performances can get; the imagery of him in his white suit , the "Here's lookin' at you kid", his comfort in inhibiting all that makes Rick Blaine your typical stoic male I can acknowledge. But just because he plays into this idea of a leading man believably and well such that the film doesn't collapse on top of him doesn't necessarily make it all the more impressive for me. When I watch performances my hope is that the actor will move me, will speak to me in some way, and this just doesn't do that. My lack of enthusiasm for the performance doesn't at all deter from the film; it just so happens that I don't really connect with the character, and there's not a whole lot fuel there to really rev me up. It's as leadingman-y as it gets, and that's just about all I can say about it.

What I Liked: However, what I did notice this time that I hadn't noticed as much the two times before was the shades of emotion Bogie imbues into Rick. The scenes following Ilsa's return into his life are his absolute strongest for me, and he taps into a lot surprisingly profound pain here. Bogie's at his best when he's allowing Rick to let his guard down around Ilsa--for instance, in his last few moments with Ilsa, Bogie seems so convincingly in love with Ingrid Bergman...it's all in the way he works his eyes, and it comes off as a much more realistic love than say, one between Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh (I suppose that can be attributed to the sheer chemistry between Bogie and Bergman). At the end of the day, I still think it's a solid performance--one forever remembered by people all over the world--but not one that leaves me shaking in my boots.

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised, I like him much more, but I can see 'what you didn't like'.

    How do you feel about Claude Rains?