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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

"Who's got trouble? We got trouble."

10/10
Author: Steffi_P from Ruritania
27 October 2010

For the Allies, 1943 was perhaps the grimmest and most desperate year of the war, as the conflict threatened to grind on into stalemate. Back on the home front, movie production was responding appropriately, cutting back on the flag-waving calls-to-arms, and making pictures that were more about hope, endurance, and getting on with life during a state of war. This is where Casablanca fits in.

Everybody knows about Casablanca – even people who think they don't will probably be tacitly aware of its many quotable lines. Why has the picture become such a cultural monument? The reasons are many, but that quotable script is as good a place to start as any. Casablanca is based on a (then un-produced) play by Murray Bennet and Joan Alison, which provided the outline. However it was given its Hollywood makeover by celebrated screen writing twins Julius and Philip Epstein, whose best picture up to this point had probably been The Strawberry Blonde (1941) with James Cagney; a witty, rather sentimental and very musical period piece. The Epsteins have brought many similar touches to this picture, especially their approach to music and comedy. Many of the key moments have a musical underpinning; not just the recurring love theme "As Time Goes By", but the playing of the Marseilles to drown out the Nazis, or the "Knock on Wood" number which is played in the first scene at Rick's, and very much establishes the atmosphere of the joint. The Epstein brand of humour doesn't rely on a handful of ridiculous and exaggerated characters, as was the usual at this time. Instead, the jokes all arise from normal things that we might laugh at in real life, such as the market trader reducing the price when he realises Ingrid Bergman is "a special friend of Rick's". This sort of thing is crucial for Casablanca, because it allows a little touch of humour without robbing the story of its dignity or credibility.

Then there is the director Michael Curtiz, a man who has not been deified by the magic wand of the auteur theory, and yet one whom any serious film scholar is forced to pay attention to simply because of the number of important pictures he helmed. Despite this being his best-known picture, he is himself better known for the series of swashbucklers he made with Errol Flynn in the mid-to-late 1930s. It is true that Curtiz's style tended to be very technical, and certainly his most noticeable work has been in the action genre, so as such his having directed Casablanca is seen as being coincidental to its success. Still, his shrewd mechanical mind has added a thing or two to this picture. Take that opening shot of the city, panning down from the mosque tower into the busy street. It's a complex, cluttered shot, but it really gives us a feel for the location and that tense atmosphere, with great touches like those two extras bickering in the foreground. A lot of Curtiz pictures begin with a shot like this – crowd scenes that look completely random and extremely realistic, and yet are full of meaning and rich in detail. Curtiz was also not quite the mean-minded movie-making machine that he is sometimes painted as. He did have a feel for romance and sentiment if it was a picture that relied upon it. Casablanca features quite a few uncomplicated close-ups of characters in emotional intensity, just about the only uncluttered shots you get in a Curtiz movie, and they are incredibly moving.

But of course, what would these close-ups be if they weren't of great actors? Casablanca has a flawless cast, but also a very bold one at the time. Humphrey Bogart was only just starting to play leading roles, and even then he was generally an anti-hero. However, Casablanca solidified his screen-persona, a tough individualist on the outside, but a good man at heart, albeit one loathe to reveal it. By showing that there was a human side to his charismatic demeanour, he gave his best performance to that point. Bergman too was just on the cusp of stardom, but she pulls off a role of frailty and tearfulness without getting hysterical, as many a lesser actress would have done. And then there is Claude Rains, one of the few long-established players in the picture. Rains is playing his usual type – perhaps his archetypal role – and it is actually one not unlike Bogart's, with the crucial difference being that Rains revels in his amorality. And yet Rains's art is that he makes this character, who is utterly despicable on paper, likable on screen.

On that note, it's tempting to view Bogart and Rains as the two leads – not Bogart and Bergman. It is Bogart and Rains whose story arcs deal with the main theme of Casablanca – whether to strive for individual gain or to fight for the good of the people. And this is after all a movie about people, and hope in the unity of people. There is this feeling of people brought together by their desperate situation, which permeates Rick's and the picture in general, and it's something writers, director and cast have all contributed to. It makes us feel that the struggles of every minor player – Peter Lorre's nervous underground agent, Joy Page's young wife desperate to escape the city, S.Z. Sakall's jovial headwaiter, the sadly-unsung Dooley Wilson – are as important and immediate as those of the lead players. It is perhaps more than anything else this rich humanity that made the picture connect with wartime audiences, and has made it a work of power and resonance ever since.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

"As Time Goes By..."

10/10
Author: Ashley Wilkinson from United States
14 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As the film's theme song so aptly observes, things change as time goes by. People, politics, relationships- none of these are safe from the passage of time. This is never truer than in the fictional story that takes place in one Moroccan city of a 1942 masterpiece. In Casablanca, this concept is exemplified expertly in a timeless classic directed by Michael Curtiz.

The story centers on the reunion of two ex-lovers and how their past relationship fits into their present circumstances. In the city of Casablanca, Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is living his life lightly and superficially, making no personal connections to anyone, as is fittingly demonstrated by a character-defining line in the beginning of the movie 'I stick my neck out for nobody'. He's seemingly satisfied with this unfulfilling existence when a ghost from his past (Ingrid Bergman) walks back into his life (and into his bar) with her new prestigious husband, Victor Laszlo. Rick is surprised and unhinged at her sudden presence, and Ilsa obviously is as well. The couple is there to escape the World War II Nazi Germany, but cannot leave without Rick's help. Old feelings must be faced, and life altering choices made before anyone can enjoy a happily ever after.

The title this movie has earned as one of the greatest of all time is not earned easily, nor given lightly. Greatness is found in the dialogue, acting, camera shots, etc. My personal favorite aspect is the dialogue. The film is surprisingly funny, in all the back-and-forth lines delivered with a perfect dose of dry humor, such as Rick's response to his file ('Are my eyes really brown?") and Renault's feigned outrage ("I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here"). The peppering of these well-delivered lines throughout the film really makes the movie for me. The writing is terrific, and almost every line is memorable. I also admire the depth of each character. Rick at first appears to be a cool, selfish bar owner, but we see that he is actually just a broken-hearted man, and 'a rank sentimentalist'. Ilsa as a character is layered and mysterious. She is conflicted- neither the audience, nor the woman herself, can tell which man she loves most. We never know through what she tells us, rather the answer is gleaned from significant looks and body language.

That especially is an excellent facet of Casablanca- the subtlety. Much of the plot is derived from facial expressions and what is found behind a character's words or actions rather than their face value appearance. For example, Ugarte hints to Rick that he killed the German couriers in order to obtain the transit letter. In response to Ugarte's earlier question, Rick says "You're right, Ugarte. I am a little more impressed with you" -his tone of disgust in this line is slight, but significant. Or at the conclusion of the film, Ilsa is to board a plane with one of the men. It turns out to be Victor. She never says which man she wants it to be, but as she walks away she turns her head to look at Rick one last time and we can clearly see the answer. These moments and many like them exhibit the unassuming skill of the film.

I have only just touched on a few of the many great merits of Casablanca. It is a fantastic film, and I understand why it has earned so many raving reviews over the years. It's now one of my favorites and I know it's one I will watch again and again. The movie appeals to a broad audience- from film experts to average movie watchers, it is accessible and enjoyable. This appeal extends across generations, as it has survived all these years and will for many more to come. Maybe some things don't change.

As time goes by, indeed.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

You Must Remember This

10/10
Author: kenjha
17 January 2010

It doesn't get much better than this drama about war time intrigue and romance. Bogart gives the best performance of his storied career in the quintessential role of the tough, cynical loner with a soft heart. Bergman is simply luminous. Henried does well in a thankless role. Rains nearly steals the film as a crooked but lovable police inspector. The script has more memorable lines than any other, the cinematography is crisp, and nobody sings "As Time Goes By" like Wilson. Curtiz, an underrated director, deserves much of the credit for the iconic images of this unforgettable classic. Thankfully, to paraphrase a line from the film, we'll always have "Casablanca."

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

none

9/10
Author: HISTORY_OAC_gheins from United States
10 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Casablanca has been regarded through the decades as about as near to a perfect picture as an audience could ever wish to behold. Being set during a global war that was right in front of a global population's face; being centered around individualized conflicts that a global population can relate to (love, right/wrong, risky entrepreneurship); and having the story be acted out by actors and actresses with 2nd to none self control (Humphrey Bogart), the film has absolutely all the ingredients for a classic. I could only imagine the "date movie" potential a film like this could have. I think of more modern films that try to incorporate the war setting with comparable themes but none are so in-depth and all inclusive as Casablanca.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Casablanca helped make the Golden Age magical!

9/10
Author: snackgoblin from United States
1 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942) has quite the reputation as we all know! After watching this film I fell in love, I was enchanted and dazzled by its beauty. Humphrey Bogart stars as Rick, a complicated man with a heart breaking past.

The scenes that took place in Rick's restaurant were especially stunning because they look and feel so different at times depending on the situation. During business hours the restaurant is a happening place and these scenes were always loud, bright, high in contrast and flashy. The scenes in Rick's office and when the restaurant was closed were usually dark and quiet; feeling more personal. The focus of the camera also had a different feel while shooting certain characters. A soft focus was used while shooting Ingrid Bergman's character Ilsa, making her even more gorgeous.

The ending of Casablanca is really quite amazing because it is meant to feel incomplete. This opens so many doors for each character and I wondered what happened to these people while the war continued on.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The writing, the character actors, the lighting, and then, for dessert, some romance, too. Oh, and America goes to war at last.

10/10
Author: secondtake from United States
17 October 2009

Casablanca (1942)

When Rick (the inimitable Bogart) says to Sam (the inimitable Dooley Wilson), "If it's December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?" he's announcing to everyone that this is a movie about Pearl Harbor. That is, it is about this hardboiled, pre-noir American type, who sticks his neck out for no one, and his growing need to go to war.

Need and desire. That's part of the compelling mood of the movie--everything feels like it has to be so. Americans are (by implication) really good at heart, and of course we'll come to the air of pretty Norwegians trapped by love and reluctant Frenchmen trapped by circumstance and all those very interesting lovable refugees (some real refugee actors), trapped by Nazi meanness and brutality, plain and simple.

The romance? That, in a way, is the MacGuffin, not the other way around. Certainly, the famous end to the movie leaves the romance in the dust. Casablanca is a call to arms, for all the best reasons, and it appeals across the decades, too. In fact, the movie premiered on Thanksgiving, 1942, so the U.S. is fully in the war by the time people see it. And it resonates as a confirmation, and almost as prescient. We trust Bogart, by now, to be the right kind of man in every circumstance, just like our own men, husbands, fathers, brothers on the field.

These great things don't make the movie great. Not as a movie. The writing, above all, does that (the Epsteins labored and were as inspired as they were gifted in this, with Howard Koch). But the filming is gorgeous, every scene filled with dense layers foreground to back, including layers of light, and often moving light, from searchlights and passing cars, or in the café as the lights move from piano to band and so on. Actors move across the screen in fluid conversation, sometimes for a laugh, often for a drink, eventually to see Rick, or to fret about getting out, getting to Lisbon, getting to America. It's all idealized and frightening at the same time. The bit actors are astonishing, the direction by the seasoned but unexceptional Curtiz is compact and elegant. Bogart is perfect.

There isn't much to say new, or old, that's worth the time here, with everything out there so well said already. Just Google the movie and read away. Or better yet, watch it again. If you think you've seen the movie enough, look beyond plot and really listen to the writing, and watch the camera-work and lights. It's not a great film by accident, and it doesn't hide why it's great. There are better films, I suppose, of course there are, depending who you ask and on what day. But not many.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

You must remember this.....

10/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
19 September 2009

Casablanca is one of those films that needs no introduction or in truth, any more in-depth dissection as to its worth. Over the years it has become one of the most quoted ever pictures {sometimes wrongly}, and in reality it's probably more iconic than it is a work of art. Although a truly A list production for 1942, fact is nobody in and around the film expected it to be anything other than a good piece to put bums on the seats in the theatres. Solidly received on release and riding in on the wave of the Allies inroads into North Africa, Casablanca steadily overcame its much discussed production troubles {the script was practically rewritten daily apparently} to be where it is now, one of the most loved film's of all time.

So what is it about Casablanca that makes it so cherished and adored by each and every generation? I just know that each time I view it {yearly} it's like falling in love again, each viewing brings a new, and emotionally driven fulfilment. Tears flow, sad ones and happy ones, an overriding feeling that romantic idealism isn't dead, to which Casablanca becomes my personal myth buster. Thematic redemption brings a joyous reward, even as our daydreams about lost chances and lost loves hangs heavy in and around Rick's Café Américain. Everything about Casablanca is right, from its flawless direction {Michael Curtiz} to its iconic music, and of course the magnificent characters that are brought to life by the incredibly tight and effective cast. It may not be the greatest film of all time, but to me, and those who let it into their lives, it's one of the best friends anyone could ever hope to have. 10/10

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

10 lines of text

10/10
Author: rjm11 from United States
29 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I don't know that I can do the 10 lines of text for this. I mean, what can I say that won't be a repetition? This is the yardstick by which all movies are measured. It also contains one of the biggest misnomers of all time. NOBODY says "Play it again, Sam" during this movie. How many bar bets have I won with that one? (Lots) It also goes to show (to paraphrase another classic) 'you never know what you're gonna get'. This was a "B" movie completed in a very short time. And we wind up with a timeless classic. Personal note: IMHO, and not to detract from a wonderful ensemble cast, Claude Rains steals the show. A sign of a truly great film is one you pick up in the middle, no matter how often you have seen it, and you just can't turn it off.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

"... human life is cheap."

10/10
Author: cordaro9418 from United States
1 June 2009

Where to begin..? Originally believed a 'B' film in their product, Warner Bros. never conceived the effect the movie would have. Shot in sequence due to a script written daily, the actors never knew what to expect from the characters day after day. The fact that not even the writers knew who would win the girl till the night before the classic scene was shot. And yet 'Casablanca' is listed at No. 2 on the AFI top 100 films of all time (though should, in all actuality, be flip-flopped with 'Citizen Kane' for the top spot). With success in 'High Sierra' and 'The Maltese Falcon' (Thanks in large part to a rather ignorant George Raft) Bogart was well on his way to being a legitimate leading man. This film would make him a legend a studio star and later, a legend. Sure his body of work was the main factor, but 'Casablanca' in hand with 'Falcon' created the mystique of Bogart which films like 'To Have and Have Not' and 'The Big Sleep' only fueled. A mediocre effort from Warners which molded many of their castaway Euro-stars into a great and well written tapestry where everyone stole the scene from everyone else in such fashion it appeared seamless. The film moves along introducing us to each character in perfect detail, the harsh environment of Casablanca, that war-torn sweat-box which could easily double as a Tatooine spaceport from 'Star Wars', and the Nazi imperial rule who smothers them all. Never looked upon as epic and not even filmed as such 'Casablanca' exudes Epic film in a nice tidy package. With all around fantastic effort from everyone on screen with a great turn by Claude Raines the film is a must see and worthy of No. 2 on the list (sandwiched between 'Kane' and 'The Godfather'). Quickly paced and keeping you in your seat, get the popcorn and don't even think of going to the bathroom.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

If you haven't watched Casablanca, you are not born yet....

10/10
Author: Faisel Jamil (simplyfsl) from Kuwait
12 February 2009

Casablanca is a movie which shows love in all together a different dimension.I have watched it more than 10 times and yet I can't even find a single scene which looks boring or repetitive for me.The movie is the best example of Love which really sacrifices.Thought this theme has been followed by many movies in last 70 years but its the story telling of Casablanca which makes it a movie which after age of 66 years still is best romantic movie of all time.

In terms of acting, from A to Z it is a BOGART-BERGMAN movie, a tour De force of screen chemistry which hasn't been matched again.Yet during the filming I have read that the actors hardly spoke off screen.How professional,these days every screen couple becomes a scandal or most of time its a publicity stunt.Certainly Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman didn't need it because their acting speaks for itself.

If I could mark more than 10, I would give it.Casablanca is not just a movie, its an experience.No one should miss it.

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