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Casablanca is the sort of film that suffers from its reputation. People walk into it expecting to see the greatest film of all time and are disappointed when it doesn't measure up to their own pet faves. But if it doesn't have the depth of some masterpieces, it is certainly among the most entertaining, with a brilliantly witty script, a superb cast and one of the most stirring scenes in all cinema, the so-called Battle Of The Anthems when Laszlo incites Rick's patrons in a recital of La Marseillaise. It also broke social ground, with Sam the pianist (Dooley Wilson) being one of the first black roles to be treated as (almost) an equal. Most of all, it's a film you can watch again and again. If you haven't yet, give it a try; it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
"Casablanca" is unquestionably one of the two greatest American films.
Everything about it (except possibly the special effects) is either
perfect or so close it doesn't even matter. I'm writing this having
just gone to see it with my sweetie at a packed-house Valentine's Day
showing in a restored classic movie palace. If you ever have the chance
to see a beautiful print of this film on a really big screen in such a
venue, with an audience totally in love with it, DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT
pass up the opportunity! When people used to refer to the "silver
screen," it's this movie and a few others that they were talking
about--it literally shimmers like finely wrought silver.
Oh yes, the other greatest American film? "Citizen Kane," and for many of the same reasons. Interesting that these two films were made almost at the same time, "CK" being released in 1941 and "Casablanca" in 1942.
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.
*** 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.
A film that is regarded as a classic from most but does it hold up for
me? Definitely. Michael Curtiz is the director of Casablanca, who has
done a mountain full of films including The Adventures of Robin Hood
and Mildred Pierce. I came into this with high expectations, even in my
subsequent viewings, as it has an established cast, a well known
composer, a prominent director and an experienced cinematographer. The
film is definitely excellent but some elements, due to nitpicking,
sinks this film a little.
The screenplay is developed by the Epstein brothers who had a reputation at their time, and with this project they seem to be in the top of their game. The film's story is packed, exploring a love story, a rebellion and the life of a citizens or immigrants in Casablanca. The film is generally well known for its love story but that wasn't the area that hooked me as I felt it was dragged by it's melodrama. The shifty and uneasy life in this desert city is what kept me hook and it dominates the first half of the film. It is from the start that the film establishes the importance of the city as a character along with the leading actors. The first and start of the second act is dominated with humor as a break from the main storyline which held my interest. I do not hate the love story but I just feel it doesn't hold up with me as compared to the more later love stories in Hollywood, Annie Hall, Vertigo and Beauty and the Beast. Then again, this is a product of its time and I can't frown upon it too much just because of that.
This is the only film I have seen of Curtiz's work but it isn't the only one I am aware of. He is an underrated director and one of the hardest working. With Casablanca, he just got hold of a fantastic script which got the general public to really notice him. Curtiz wanted this film to move quickly but also giving key moments in exploring the relationship between Bogart and Bergman's characters.
The year before Casablanca, Arthur Edeson did the cinematography for The Maltese Falcon and in that film, Edeson used shadows well and using lighting to create the mood of the scene. He brings it back here but more. This film is dark, for the most part as most of the intimate scenes took place indoors and at night. Shadow casts on scenes with Bogart and Bergman but at the same time not overshadowing the actors, especially Bergman's beautiful face as her beauty and vulnerability expressed by her face as both are important components of Ilsa. Edeson and Curtiz always have the camera moving, whether it is inside Rick's club or outside in the streets of Casablanca. It keeps the film at a pace that doesn't feel stationary and gives us a sense of exploration of the setting. This pace is also supported by great editing. In intimate moments, Curtiz really wants Edeson to have the camera get close on the actor's faces to not only have us focus on it but to create that sense of intimacy and closeness. Casablanca still has great photography, even in this day and age, and is an important piece in making it an iconic film.
Max Steiner was nominated in 1939 for his iconic work in Gone With The Wind and he was also nominated a few years later for score in Casablanca. His work here in Casablanca is definitely something to be remembered by fan when remembering this film. This should have been an area where it definitely should have won the academy award but sadly it lost to The Song of Bernadette.
For a film focused on the love story and is this intimate requires actors that bring that chemistry in order to create a memorable performance. Bogart and Bergman definitely work well together but I felt that Bogart is a little too old for Bergman. I would rather have the age of Bergman's character be nearly level with Bogart's and replace her with an older actress, but would the film still be regarded as a classic if the casting choices were different? I think so and I am only nitpicking. Both Bogart and Bergman bring it their all, even if the script is a little melodramatic they make it work for the most part. I definitely enjoyed Bogart's embodiment as this stoic and tortured character who distances himself from letting people in. Bergman has the more overly dramatic lines but she still delivers by showing emotion and care for Bogart's character. As soon as she was introduced in the film and meets Sam (Dooley Wilson), you can see that pain and sorrow rising to the surface. The supporting cast are fine and are either used for plot tools or comedic relief. The actors giving comic relief, especially Claude Reins, had me smiling every time they say something witty.
A film that definitely still holds a strong place in this day and age and is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It is a fascinating story of a love story and an interesting take on the life of Casablanca during the second world war. It has its flaws but it's overshadowed by its strengths. Casablanca is definitely worth your time and demands repeated viewings.
Given that I'm now over 500 reviews into my film-critic "hobby", I
figured that the time was slightly over-due to watch some of the more
iconic pictures out there, the ones most critics consider essential.
You know the ones - "Citizen Kane", "Gone With The Wind", stuff like
that with epic dollops of melodrama and black-and-white shots in
soft-focus. I expected this to be one of those over-hyped pictures that
people remember through rose-tinted spectacles. I expected dodgy
acting, a corny script, rubbish sets and that horrible feeling that the
whole thing was a con. And after 500-reviews, do you know what I've
learnt? I know nothing.
Casablanca, in northern Africa, is a mecca for people fleeing the approaching Nazi forces in the early years of World War 2. For those like Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) with nowhere else to go, Casablanca is as good a home as any and his nightspot is the hottest ticket in town. Enjoying an uneasy relationship with local prefect Captain Renault (Claude Rains), Rick is as cynical and world-weary as they come until the enigmatic Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) comes to the bar. Having escaped the clutches of a Nazi concentration camp, Laszlo forces Rick to question his neutrality in the politics of Europe: firstly, by bringing along his wife - and Rick's former lover - Isla Lund (Ingrid Bergman)and secondly, by trying to escape from the Nazis once and for all and the villainous Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) who's in town specifically to bring Laszlo in.
I'm always weary about approaching the oldies but I really shouldn't have worried about "Casablanca" - it's an iconic picture for several reasons. Performances are frankly superb from almost everyone - Bogart is immensely charismatic as Rick, a character whose influence you can see in many movies since and his chemistry with Bergman is the stuff of legend. Every time you hear one of his classic lines like "Here's looking at you, kid", you give a little childish yelp of joy at witnessing film history before your eyes. There is a real sense of magic here, which would count for nothing if the film weren't any good. But it is - the story offers a timeless romance and tales of redemption amid heightening tensions and the imminent threat of war, brilliantly illustrated by the scene in the bar as the Nazi anthem is drowned out by the locals singing La Marseillaise. It reminded me of the first time I watched "Dr No" or the first Star Wars - you know what's coming, you've probably already heard some of the lines before but you know what? Instead of weakening the film, it brings it to life in a way that modern movies just can't do. You know you're watching a landmark picture and things like plot holes and continuity simple don't matter any more.
I was quite unprepared for just how good "Casablanca" is. It would appear that nothing diminishes its power and even after all this time, it is a wonderfully emotive and evocative picture that rightly remains one of the all-time classics. It would be easy to dismiss it as clichéd or overly dramatic but this is a film with real power, a tangible sense of danger that hangs over the characters as they battle with inner demons and external villains. The only real things I could criticise are the fact that no patron ever appears drunk (despite everyone having vast amounts to drink) and that Casablanca's excessively humid climate doesn't transfer well but to be honest, I'm nit-picking. I love this movie and regret not watching it before. Some critic, huh?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Prior to seeing this in it's entirety, I'd only seen the closing scene
where the plane is taking off and Bogart's infamous quote is spoken.
Needless to say, this film was fantastic. The characters and acting were flawless. The story line includes a love story of epic proportions and shows the audience what war and invasions can do to a relationship. It tears it apart. Also, for some reason, I really liked Sam's storyline-- I found him to be a very interesting minor character.
The use of one sided, low-lighting was present throughout and helped make some of the scenes seem a bit more dramatic. I also found myself admiring the photography from beginning to end. You could pause that movie at almost any spot and it could easily be used as a still frame or photograph. Still frames alone would be able to tell this story, obviously not as great as the film though. The cinematography and photography were absolutely beautiful.
Seeing this movie for the first time in the 21st century, I asked myself, "Well...was it as great as expected?". I'd have to go with a yeah, sure! The movie was interesting. Was it the best movie I ever saw in my life? Uhh, not really. The main thing is that is kept me captivated (almost forgot I was watching it) and I was able to relate to parts of the film. When a movie is able to do that, create a relatable feeling for its audiences, then it's a winner. Casablanca was a real love story. Not this fluff that we see now a days that have the same concept and the same story line. I loved this films mise-en-scene. The props and effects used made the setting seem so real. There was great use of invisibility. Even though the scenes were not shot overseas, it kind of made you forget where they really were shooting.
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