Casablanca - 1942
Very few times in our day to day lives, reality meets high expectations and that almost goes double in the film industry. Whenever someone over sells a movie, I rarely end up loving the movie as much as the person that recommended it. So, seventy-five years have passed and I had yet to see Casablanca, out of fear of it not meeting the high expectations I had for AFI’s #2 greatest movies of all time. I recently caught a special screening and I can safely say that AFI is not over selling this movie at all. Casablanca is a true classic, that benefits from crisp editing, quick and sharp dialogue and incredible performances by everyone involved.
Now I know that I'm not breaking ground saying this movie is good so I will focus on explaining why I flat out love this movie from beginning to end.
First would be the dialogue (and by osmosis the performances) is so crisp and fast pace that it moves the story along so quickly that you barely notice that there aren’t many action sequences in this movie. I was so entertained by the banter between every single character that interacted with Rick, played by the great Humphrey Bogart, and Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Rains. Both of this characters carry the movie in complete contrast, yet always finding a way to complement one another. Rick is a no nonsense, strong minded character that always follows his rules, and can be considered the soul and conscience of the movie. Captain Louis Renault is a corrupt and outspoken character that is always looking to come out on top and can be considered the light and funny side of the movie. The bests scenes are when both are going at one another exchanging words like rapid fire with always an unspoken message that the audience can pick up on.
Second would be the actual story we see unfold in the hour and forty-two-minute run time. The screenplay was based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s and surprisingly took multiple writers to produce the final product (yet it feels like a single voice from beginning to end). This story explores multiple themes from friendship, war, loyalty, a sense of duty and even immigration all under the umbrella of a romance movie. We are dropped in Casablanca during the War World 2, as it serves as a stopping point for people trying to escape the horrors of the war, hoping for a fresh start in America. Here we find Rick, owner of Casablanca’s most famous bar, as he tries to stay above all the war politics and bureaucracy establishing a set of rules that nobody is above within the walls of his bar. Everything goes out the window as Ilsa Lund, played by the great Ingrid Bergman, and her husband walk into his gin joint and turns his world (again) upside down. Through flashback we learn why the very sight of Isla turns Rick pale white, as she is (and will always be) the love of his life. This love triangle produces the main conflict of the movie, as Rick must battle the urge to steal Ilsa and his sense of duty of helping the cause (since Ilsa’s husband is one of the leaders of the resistance).
Third would the editing, going from scene to scene without wasting a single second of screen time. This movie (like I said above) moves incredibly fast, for it depending almost entirely on dialogue between characters. Every scene informs the previous one and helps the audience understand the next, having a tight and crisp timeframe from beginning to end.
The last being how unaware I was that I was watching a seventy-five-year-old movie. I was completely sucked into the story and before I knew it I was watching the famous end sequence looking at my watch in awe that an hour and forty-two minutes had passed by. I completely bought into the world they established, understanding the rules and the consequences of breaking them. Whenever I hear or read anything about Casablanca it is rarely pointed out how funny this movie is. With the help of Rains’ comedic timing and Bogart’s dry humor, I found myself laughing out loud as if I was watching a comedy from today. I don’t want to ruin the ending (even though the movie has been around for a while now), but it’s truly one of the better stories of how complicated love is in real-life.
If this movie were to be released today it would kill at the box office (I would like to think) and would receive every single nomination, it received back in 1944. This is why I love movies, because great movies are truly timeless and can be enjoyed (and studied) by generations to come for the great works or art they are.
Buy Casablanca, watch any special screenings available in your neighberghood… I can’t recommend this movie enough.
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