MOVIE REVIEW: “Casablanca” stars Humphrey Bogart (The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon), Ingrid Bergman (Notorious, Spellbound), Paul Henreid (Now Voyager, Hollow Triumph), Claude Rains (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Adventures of Robin Hood), Dooley Wilson (Come to the Stable, Free for All), Conrad Veidt (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Man Who Laughs), Sydney Greenstreet (Across the Pacific, They Died with Their Boots On), Peter Lorre (Arsenic and Old Lace, M), and S.Z. Sakall (Christmas in Connecticut, Wonder Man). It was directed by Michael Curtiz (The Comancheros, White Christmas), while the screenplay was written by Julius J. Epstein (Reuben Reuben, Pete ‘n’ Tillie), Philip G. Epstein (Mr. Skeffington, The Mad Miss Manton), and Howard Koch (The Fox, Sergeant York). Based on a play, the film takes place in Casablanca, Africa during World War II, where citizens escape there in hopes to flee from German occupation. Within the French territory is an American bar, run by a cynical man named Rick Blaine (Bogart), whose life is changed when a former flame waltzes into his bar, seeking help.
It doesn’t get any more classic than this: “Casablanca,” a story of war, romance, and how the past can shape a man. I saw this feature for the first time last year in my U.S. History class, though I failed to analyze it do to various reasons (my viewing was split up over the course of a week, and I was extremely busy during the time). Fast forward to now, and I own it on blu-ray, having seen it for the second time a few nights ago. What makes “Casablanca” such a treasure is how timeless it is. Both in my first and second viewing, I was awestruck by the sheer quality this movie presents. The sets, performances, score, and writing are all fluid and powerful, boasting a picture that can warm the hearts of any audience. I was surprised at how great it is; some of the classical features I’ve seen that were declared great (and given the right of being classic) were often boring or slow, but it makes sense being as how I was younger watching them. Something about black-and-white makes a kid uninterested at the get-go. Lack of color isn’t entertaining, unless it is a stylistic choice. Also, filmmaking back then were more talk than action, signifying a turn of tide with how overzealous these movies are made nowadays (though I thoroughly enjoyed “Infinity War” and almost all of the “Mission: Impossible” flicks). For some reason, “Casablanca” struck a chord with me. There’s plenty to love, as I have stated before, but let me explain why everyone should watch it if they haven’t (or reconsider their opinion if it is different than mine). First and foremost, it is a tale that almost anyone can relate to. It deals with the sacrifice of happiness to save others, and how the past should be viewed as a stepping stone rather than a barrel of regrets. Most of what happened in “Casablanca” was outside of time, apart from the setting it takes place in. A guy owns a bar trying to escape his past, but is soon brought back into it when a woman he loves returns to his life. It’s simplistic, yet poetic; call me soft, but I find it deep, especially whenever you take the brilliant performances into account. Humphrey Bogart lives up to his name. It’s the first film I’ve seen of his, and I can safely say that I know why many actors looked to him as an influence. While neutral and stern, Bogart slowly revealed his character to be a man broken. His candor and delivery are astonishing, and he stole the stage, opposite of the fantastic Ingrid Bergman. Outside of her gorgeous looks, she had amazing chemistry with Bogart, and knew how to heighten the emotion of a scene. She was truly magnificent, and you couldn’t have a better pair of actors share the screen. Amongst the supporting cast are some solid players, like Paul Henried, Claude Rains, Dooley Wilson, and Peter Lorre. They were great, as were their characters. The dialogue written is the next big thing to appreciate about this movie. It doesn’t get too hokey, and it gives strong development to both its characters and themes, making way for some memorable quotes like “here’s to looking at you kid.” On top of that, it knows the right beats; when to be slow and emotional, and when to be hard-hitting. Hardly is there a dull moment of this feature, save for a few (it can get a bit slow in a few minor places). Another short point to make is the score. It’s beautiful, and circles around the song “As Time Goes By.” Before Dooley Wilson implemented it in the movie, I listened to Jimmy Durante’s take on it. I enjoyed it before the picture, and I loved it even more during. It certainly went along with the theme of the story, and no matter how many times they played it the tune never got old. Finally, the history this feature inhibits makes it archival. “Casablanca” was released in 1942, during the height of World War II, and most of the turmoil that was going on during that time were exhibited in the story. It brought tension, but also led to emotional moments like the singing of ballads, pitting Germany against France; dictatorship versus freedom. When you know the history behind it, the experience becomes more beautiful (of course, I had a history professor giving us commentary the first time I watched it). All in all, “Casablanca” is regarded to not only be a work of art, but a piece of history. There aren’t many griefs that I have with it. I loved both the conflict and the romance aspects, and the performances made all a wonderful experience. Also, the ending is unforgettable; truly a fantastic way to finish the release (and put a tear in your eye). If you haven’t seen it, I implore you to as soon as possible. FINAL SCORE: 98%= Juicy Popcorn
This movie has been inducted into The Juicy Hall of Fame.
Here is the trailer: