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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bloom said of Shakespeare that he invented humanity. Films will always have less depth than poetry, but they can have a similar, profound effect on popular culture. Movies are seldom about life, but life is often about film, the few films that find the groove.
This film invented -- to a substantial degree -- what it meant to be a post-war American. It is not so much that it was perfect, but that we have remolded ourselves around it, as part of the victor's healing.
I recently saw some other Bogart films (like `Treasure'), and they amazed me in how poorly they worked. How mannered his acting seemed.
We have beautiful faces in other films, even this face (which we still have in Isabella). But nothing seems to compete for the certain archetype of passionate commitment, of pathetic yearning, of immature desire, of refugee desperation.
The interior sets -- and how they are photographed -- show a definite post `Citizen Kane' influence. In fact, one can see much of the Mercury Player flavor in these characters, particularly Greenstreet.
But you know, this film has so melded with dreams that you don't need to screen it.
I am not getting into the "The greatest picture of all-time" debate.
It's too subjective but if I forced to cast a vote, I would give this
the most serious consideration. I mean, what aspect of this film isn't
The dialog is superb, one of the best ever put on film. The acting is great, cinematography first-rate and the story offers an interesting mix of drama, action, romance, music...you name it. This film has everything but color, which might prohibit of a lot of younger folks from ever checking this classic out. That would be a shame because film- making doesn't get much better than "Casablanca."
All of this doesn't mean it's my favorite film of all-time. It isn't even in my top ten but I always find it very, very enjoyable and the latest 2-disc DVD transfer makes it even better to view.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, of course, are the stars but I always found Claude Raines' character the best to watch. His witty dialog as the police chief always makes me smile. He has many clever lines and isn't a guy you can figure out. He and Bogart's character are similar, essentially coming across as people who only care about themselves but deep inside are good-hearted people.
The ending is much discussed and very famous and helps make the movie so revered. There has been so much written about this film that there I won't add more except to make one negative statement but that's about a line in the story and not a reflection on the quality of the film. I wasn't impressed that Bergman, despite being married, was willing to run off with Bogart, claiming she "doesn't know" what's right or wrong! Are you serious? Well, judging by the marriage records of Hollywood over the years, maybe they don't know adultery just might be wrong. Anyway, other than that, this is a great movie with many, many classic scenes. Bergman never looked prettier, albeit the aid of soft lens shots on her closeups, and Bogey was never more, well, Bogey, than in here. Add Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and other fine actors and wow, what a cast!
An added bonus is hearing "As Time Goes By" throughout the film, a haunting song. Actually, there are several songs played, mainly by pianist Dooley Wilson, and they're all fun to hear. As I said, one could go on and on about this movie. 'Nuff said.
When people ask me what is the best movie of all-time is I don't flinch, I just say "Casablanca". It has everything a great movie should have: romance, sacrifice, wonderful lines, a memorable song, incredible acting (even in the smallest roles) and it is one of the few non-film noir movies filmed in the B&W era that I wouldn't want to see refilmed in color (that is in definite contrast to "I Know Where I'm Going!" which begs to be refilmed to show the beauty of its vistas). But the key that makes everything works is the ending. I don't think the ending that exists in Casablanca could be filmed today and though most have seen this movie (or any of its parodies) I don't want to give anything away. But I encourage you to compare the ending of this movie with the endings of other romantic movies such as "An Affair to Remember", "Sleepless in Seattle" and even the most recent animated "Sinbad" movie. Contrast their endings with Casablanca's ending and you see how Casablanca resonates. Many movies have tried to emulate the ending of Casablanca but it never quite rings true because hollywood movies aren't allowed to have this ending yet the only ones who try are either independent or anti-hollywood.
This is a good movie, maybe even a great one. It is most definitely not
one of the best movies ever made. What it is is a perfect example of a
specific style of "Old Hollywood" filmmaking, maybe the best example
there is. But if that style was the best way to make films, they would
still make films like that.
That's not to say I don't like this movie. I even understand why some people love it. It's a pleasant romantic film with some very iconic moments. For me, The Marseillaise scene is very powerful. Despite all that, this film fails to be a great piece of art in the way more challenging films like Citizen Kane, Persona, and The Passion of Joan of Arc are.
And that's because, despite the strong story of the film, it has very little to say. Curtiz is not interested in raising any questions, but simply telling his story and drumming up support for the war. He's also not a great director, as the movie's cinematic style is overly theatrical, without any attempt to use cinematography and editing to tell the story. The acting is (as usual) is great from Bergman, and rather cheesy from Bogart.
This movie is a classic, there's no denying that. But it's a classic because it's simply a good example of a style that is typical of the time. What is typical is almost never important. If the movie is worth watching it's only because of the place it holds in American culture. It's place in the overall history and development of film is almost nonexistent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"This is a beginning of a beautiful friendship" that is how this unforgettable and everlasting movie, which talks about love, friendship, loyalty, intrigue, and survival ends. The play takes place in the city of Casablanca, and even though we are unable to see the city (because the action takes place mainly in Ricks' bar), the life of the city is present. On one side are refugees waiting to escape from the horrors of war, and on the other are those who still enjoy nights full of gambling and entertainment, or smuggling and enrichment. The love story is started in war Paris, and revived through the memories in the currently more peaceful Morocco. The fact that love is stronger and larger than any other living thing, and subordinate to world events, is show in the decisions Rick (H. Bogart) makes. Although the movie is black-and-white, it even more emphasizes time events. There is also a color version of the film, but it feels like something is missing. If you have a chance to watch it, you shouldn't miss this masterpiece. And if you have watched it... Play It Again Sam.
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 favorites, including "As Time Goes By".
All of the film's technical elements are excellent including the script, with its colorful 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".
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 in the war against Nazi Germany.
It's that kind of cynicism that makes this old-time classic endearing to a
modern day audience. "Casablanca" is a noirish melodrama set against the
back-drop of WWII and Europeans fleeing to America by way of French Morocco.
What's so refreshing about it, in spite of its classical love triangle
theatrics, is that is never places romantic love on a pedestal. It realizes
that in a world of uncertainty where neutrality is the biggest crime, there
are more noble things than love.
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 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 cleverly cast and competently directed translates well in any day and age. Play it again, Sam, and it gets even better As Time Goes By.
Everyone remembers 'As Time Goes By' (the song that only stayed in the film,
so popular culture has it, because Bergman had cut her hair for 'Joan of
Arc', and couldn't retake scenes using another tune) but there is much more
to this world-weary romance.
Bogart, of course, was hardly the usual romantic movie hero. Which is possibly what makes him so perfect for Rick, in his Casablanca nightspot, on nobody's side. He spars with Claude Rains (the crooked police captain) and Sidney Greenstreet (a rival bar owner) like a trooper, has a quiet contempt for Paul Henreid (a freedom fighter) and Peter Lorre (a thief), gives Conrad Veidt (the Nazi Major) as good as he gets, is on the level with employees Dooley Wilson and Cuddles Sakall.
Through all this, truly loves Ingrid Bergman (the beautiful Ilse, the love of his life). It is their story, but not the story you might expect. This is the secret, I think, of 'Casablanca' and its lasting success. From the moment we see the map and the film title to the 'beautiful friendship' line at the end, we're hooked. Every performance is a lasting joy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I didn't understand the film properly until I read Danny Peary's essay on it in the first of his three "Cult Movies" books (which, by the way, you MUST read, although you should be aware that Peary's complaints about "The Red Shoes" aren't even near the mark). The key (and, in retrospect, obvious) insight is this: all along, Captain Renault WANTED Rick to become a hero again. As long as Rick was content to adopt a cynical, self-serving attitude, Renault, a man made of lesser material, had an excuse to do the same - and he wanted that excuse to be denied him. When it WAS denied him he was delighted. THAT'S he joined the side of the angels, without even hesitating. (It's also why he spent so much time earlier poking fun of Rick's former idealism, in an attempt to get Rick to defend it.) This probably strikes many people as obvious; I regret to say I had to have it pointed out to me.
I don't have to argue that this is a great film. We all know it is. Peary calls it the ONLY film that's everything the old-style studio films were trying to be, and he's probably right. This doesn't, of course, mean that it's the BEST film of the 1940s; better still are the bolder, more ambitious productions made by more inspired directors: "Citizen Kane", "The Red Shoes", "Fantasia", and so forth. But "Casablanca" is probably as high as it is possible to fly without making a Philistine studio executive reach for his heart tablets. This is higher praise than it sounds. And if you think it IS the best film of the 1940s, after all ... well, I can see your point of view.
If all films were made like "Casablanca" it would be a perfect world. Very rarely does a film move its audience the way that this film does. The movie deals with a romance that just cannot be because of numerous circumstances. World War II is quickly turning the planet upside down and many Europeans are making their way to Casablanca to get visas to escape the Nazi regime. Paul Henreid and wife Ingrid Bergman are among the many who have made the odyssey. However, trouble springs up when they must go through Bergman's old flame (Humphrey Bogart, Oscar-nominated). More trouble arises with French military official Claude Rains (Oscar-nominated) and his strained relations with the Nazis. It is a heartwrenching film that dominates because of an outstanding screenplay, amazing direction by Michael Curtiz, and superb performances by all involved. A great movie. 5 stars out of 5.
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