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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.
Lauren Bacall was wonderful as Ilsa...in a parallel universe. Too bad
it was Ingrid Bergman who ended up with the role, I just couldn't buy
the Bogie'n Bergman love story and would have loved to see Lauren
instead! So I gave this movie a 4, as soon as I was done watching.
Because Bergman failed to convince me and I cringed at their Paris
scenes. I mean Bogie, romantic?! Are you kiddin' me?! (I was even more
shocked to see Bogie smile!) I was bored through the story, the men's
thick black eyeliner looked like an ethnic joke, their white eyeliner
was a little less distracting, but I've seen worse, so I decided what
the heck, I'm 1/4th through this movie might as well keep going since
it's not like it's starring *insert your most insipid actress and
buffoon of an actor here* And OK, since I'm well-endowed in the
"suspend disbelief" department, I'll pretend I'll buy Ingmar Bergman or
whatever as the love interest.
Since some of the dialog was amazing, I thought I'd actually give this a 7. For effort. Plus the "last night was so long ago/tonight? I don't plan that far ahead" exchange was awesome. (I'm gonna have to memorize these lines, I'm sure to use them sometime!) And the music was not bad. So what the heck, it doesn't deserve a 7 but I'm not in a bad mood tonight and it's Christmas, right?! But what the **** happened to "Play it again, Sam!"? I never once heard it and I felt ripped off throughout the movie! I heard "Play it, Sam" Who misquotes a movie, really? OUTRAGEOUS!!! Just for that, I felt like I needed a refund, and let me tell you, that 7 was quickly turning into a 5. Plus I'd seen the final scene, the Bogie/Bergman exchange, final scene, it says so on You Tube. Right? So who cares, I already know how it ends.
It wasn't the final scene after all! WTH??! After years of believing that's how it ended, now they ripoff the ending too by adding some insipid action? Couldn't they have been done at that scene since it's *supposed* to be the only end anyone cares about? (After all, it's the only one "they" ever show!! What else could there be, really?!) Well, in the end--and sorry to put it this way if you kinda like this film--but what do you think I could possibly give this sorry little B&W film maker's menial effort of a wanna-be movie? Well, if you should know I only gave it a mere TEN! That's right! Was I glad I stuck with it till the end! It got better and better until it became one of the best movies ever! I didn't expect the surprise ending, that's for sure! Blown away!
This one is definitely worth a re-watch sometime soon, minus my "Dancing-with-the-Stars-judge-raising-score-on-a-panel-every-5-secs" attitude. I don't think I've ever seen a movie where I went from "who gives a c^^p about you?" to absolutely blown away by the characters and their turn of events. In a sense I went from caring about Rick just about as little as Rick himself did to making a 180 degree turnabout. Sort of like Rick did at the end! Amazing!! And Ingrid Bergman was indeed good, certainly not my first choice for Ilsa--still would have loved to see Bacall--but she held her own. Here's looking at you, Kid! It's like after the movie was over, I came to the realization that I had been a Rick of sorts throughout. And the movie took me through my own 180.
Does everyone feel like this when watching this movie? Is it supposed to turn us all into Ricks and then flip-flop us around leaving us utterly dazed and not knowing what hit us there for a second? Or is it just me? It almost felt like a spiritual experience! Almost! It was simply amazing! 10/10. Come what may, I'll always have Casablanca in my DVD collection!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie opens up a gateway to the genre of early romance with light
drama. Now it is near impossible to find a movie that was made not for
the money, not to win awards, but for the people.
At first I thought that this movie was over hyped, but when I sat down and watched it, I realized that the hype was true. This movie delivered everything it promised and then some.
The characters were perfect. Believable, realistic, and you felt like you could relate to them in a way. Humphrey Boggart was the best example. His witty yet sarcastic remarks are still known as some of the greatest lines of all time. My personal favorite being "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." While the movie did start out slow, it quickly picked up and was able to hold my interest. It was dark, yet was able to throw in light humor without upsetting the balance of a scene. Since it was dealing with a serious issue, which at the time was an incredibly important matter, they had to find a way to deal with the issue without upsetting the balance of the film. A feat that they managed to do well.
There are many memorable scenes in the movie, but my personal favorite is the very end when Rick has to watch Llsa fly off. It is painful for him, but he knows that her staying would only hurt both of them and due to his character he is able to keep his emotions inept, while conveying in his new friend, Louis.
As for changes, I would make none. This film is a masterpiece and wanting to make changes is like editing the Bible or adding finishes to one of Leonardo DaVinici's paintings. As the saying goes 'If it ain't broke don't fix it' I was only 12 when I first saw this film, but I gained much watching it. I learned that while you may not want to do something or say goodbye to someone sometimes it is necessary for the greater cause.
This is a movie I would recommend to anyone who wants drama, romance, comedy, memorable dialogue, or just an all around good feeling. This is a movie I will continue to enjoy for years to come.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
No film captures the classical Hollywood style quite so well as
"Casablanca." The film seamlessly combines romance and intrigue in its
exotic location, remarkably conveyed by mere studio sets. The black and
white cinematography is perfect for capturing and adding mood to the
smoke filled rooms, war torn city streets, and foggy airports that
compose the world of this film. Despite seeming a product of its time,
"Casablanca" is truly a timeless piece of entertainment. It would be
futile to recount the plot here. Even those who have never seen the
film are likely to be aware that "Casablanca" is the film where Ingrid
Bergman is forced to chose between old lover Humphrey Bogart and her
resistance leader husband (the often overlooked Paul Henreid). Bergman
as Ilsa Lund, the center of the love triangle, is magnificent here. She
communicates with such ease the very different types of love she feels
for each man in her life, and we sympathize with her struggle. Of
course, Bogart too created a legendary performance as café owner Rick
Blaine. Seeing him transform from the man who will stick his neck out
for nobody to someone content with making a great self-sacrifice is one
of the joys of the film.
Bogart and Bergman are leading players among equals however, and are rightly matched by numerous character actors, not the least of which is Claude Rains. In his portrayal of French Vichy officer Captain Renault, he hits the perfect notes to show off both the corrupt and goodhearted sides of the character. He also gets to deliver some of the film's best comedic one-liners. Another unforgettable actor is Dooley Wilson as the congenial piano player Sam, who of course provides the quintessential rendition of "As Time Goes By". Director Michael Curtiz certainly does these fine actors justice. The film has some striking visuals too. Be on the lookout for the raindrops on a letter which look more like tears, and the symbolism provided by a bottle of water towards the film's end. Viewers aware of the many troubles that plagued the production of "Casablanca," should be amazed at the manner in which the film as a whole is able to so greatly transcend the sum of its parts.
When you pause and really consider it, "Casablanca" is a much simpler film than many others also hailed as classics. It was based on an unremarkable (and unproduced) stage play, shot on a modest budget, and released with the thought of the natural appeal it would carry for its wartime audiences. And yet it has endured so long beyond that. Much has been made on the subject of reading "Casablanca" as a political allegory, with Rick representing isolationist America, Lazlo the Free French, so on, and so on. This rightfully compels the film student in me. But in all actuality, the romantic in me is much more captivated by the story of three little people caught up in the problems of a crazy world. The nuances of the characters, the sense of urgency ominously hanging over every scene, and the tear jerking story of love lost, found, and lost once more in the name of a bigger cause are the elements that stay with us. For me, as well as countless other film lovers around the world, the first viewing of "Casablanca" proves to be the start of a very beautiful friendship.
What makes Casablanca the greatest?
The detail. After Ugate is arrested Rick moves forward and picks up a small glass that has fallen over.
When Sam is playing 'As Time Goes by' and Rick is drinking to forget (the famous scene) he involuntarily moans from within. He shows the man's heartbreak - the reactions of emotion running through a body broken by booze and sorrow.
This is acting and film making at it's very finest.
The inner decency of Rick is moving as is Ingrid Bergmann's tear filled eyes - but the throat catcher is the singing of the Marselliase and Yvonne's impassioned 'Vive La France!'
This was war time, and the film makes us remember what it was all for. Hollywood should look at the script - how simply it is constructed - and learn - there is a public worldwide that wants scripts of this quality about real people.
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.
Everyone, for as long as I can remember, has harped on about how good this
film is. Now I'm quite a cynical person, so for a very long time I avoided
it, not wanting to jump on the ever popular band wagon. Well, a while ago
happened across a cheap DVD version of it and thought (for some unknown
reason) why not?
We (me and the wife) put it on one Saturday night and sat down with some wine.... ....we now have 3 Bogart films and are looking out for more.
If you don't like the sound of this film, give it a try. I was shocked at how good it was! Honestly, I couldn't have been more surprised if in The Great Escape instead of digging out they ended up building sandcastles and thinking "this is jolly good fun, lets stay here instead". It really is that good!!
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