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*** 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.
Every thing positive everyone has ever said about this movie is true. Still
compelling after all these years, one of my top ten movies, I can go back
and watch every few years.
This movie works on every level, drama, love story, suspense, but most of all it is a war propaganda movie. Pro war, pro allies, anti Nazi, even a little anti French, this movie was made smack in the middle of WWII when the outcome was still in doubt and designed get the public behind the war effort. It sure was more fun then those 'Victory gardens, paper drives and gas rationing' and other techniques to get public support. It is impossible for a film made for this purpose to stand the test of time, but Casablanca has, and that's why it is such an incredible film.
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!
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.
Old Hollywood doesn't get a free pass on this list. And perhaps the
most overrated of the classic Hollywood films is Casablanca. AFI calls
it the 3rd best film of all time. The IMDb 250 ranks it #8. Almost any
list of the top ten films in history includes this Oscar-winning film.
When people think of this movie, then tend to think of the famous
lines: "Here's looking at you, kid"
"Play it again, Sam"
"We'll always have Paris"
People also remember the
look of the film: the glorious, rich black and white, with Humphrey
Bogart smoking in the darkness. All of those ridiculous things makes
people love it, but the movie doesn't quite live up its status as the
best of the best. Does it really hold up after almost 70 years later as
the highest achievement in filmmaking? I'd definitely have to say no.
Ultimately, I think nostalgia makes people give this movie more acclaim
and praise than it deserves. Romance films are always boring, always
about some guy crazy about a girl and not much else, and there are
indeed good films from the 30's and 40's that are better than this
film, for instance like King Kong.
The acting, as was often the case in the 1940s, is a bit campy and shallow. Bogart's character is witty, sharp, and cynical, but he doesn't seem particularly real. There's a stage-play "acting" style to all the performances. Bogart's role as Rick is far from his best work. He delivers dozens of quips, but they don't seem like something a real person would actually say. The characters, aside from Rick and Ilsa, are mostly caricatures. Sam is a piano-playing black sidekick with no other human qualities, despite being one of Rick's oldest friends. The Germans in Raiders of the Lost Ark were more complex. The cynical Captain Renault is little more than a memorable bit of comic relief. And while I understand that some of this acting style was common at the time, but even for that era, the acting in Casablanca feels a bit thin. It's a mediocre story, it often has the feel of a larger-than-life Broadway play more than a work of cinema. If audiences watched it for the first time today, few would think the movie belongs in the top ten, even in the top twenty of all-time films. Just because a film is memorable, that doesn't mean it is great.
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