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6 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Michael Curtiz

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, S.Z. Sakall, Dooley Wilson, Marcel Dalio, John Qualen, Helmut Dantine, Leonid Kinskey, Curt Bois, Monte Blue, Ludwig Stossel, Frank Puglia, Madeleine LeBeau, Oliver Blake, Martin Garralaga, Joy Page, Martin Garralaga, Ilka Gruning

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Casablanca (1942)
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Movie Review by Jim
January 31st, 2009

Favorite Quote
Rick: And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.
Captain Renault: That is my *least* vulnerable spot.

Casablanca is one of those movies that is truly deserving of the label "classic".

The film opens in the French Morrocan city of Casablanca some time after the German occupation of Paris in June of 1940. Casablanca swells with refugees attempting to secure passage to countries safe from the war in Europe. German and Vichy-French influence permeates the ostensibly free-French territory and the market for travel papers is dictated by high demand. Money is no longer a commodity that can guarantee passage and morality is becoming the new cost scale.

The wealthier refugees while away their time awaiting depature from Casablanca with Vichy-French, Nazis, and other unsavory characters at Rick's Cafe Americain, a high class saloon owned and managed by American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart). Rick is a successful businessman who knows how to avoid rocking the boat in the politically charged city of Casablanca. Yet he is also a man of principle who shows no love for the Nazis. Still, Rick's relationship with police captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) and his aloof discretion ("I stick my neck out for *nobody*!") give him mastery of his own domain. That is, until Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) shows up at the club with a woman from Rick's past, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). What follows is a darkly suspenseful drama involving love, loyalty, and sacrifice as Rick finally realizes that he too is a refuge and secures his own costly departure from Casablanca.

While some qualities of Casablanca clearly date it - the film is in black and white with very brisk dialogue and poor special effects by today's standard - there are many that resonate regardless of its age. Some I suspect must have raised eyebrows when the film was released - the man is the spurned lover of a married woman! The abuse of power and the depth to which desperate people will sink are brilliantly illustrated by the creepy subplot of Captain Renault providing authorized travel papers to young women (married or not) in exchange for sex. With the possible exception of Laszlo, the major characters are complicated and nuanced, neither good nor bad, just people - even Renault who "just blow[s] with the wind". All of this, combined with an absence of the melodramatic overacting that often punctuated movies from this era, results in a timeless classic elegant in its simplicity and subtlety.

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Feb 2, 2009 1:05 AM
I agree that Casablanca is - unlike HALF of AFI's top 100 films of the last 100 years - a film that holds up as an overall tight piece of cinema. But many people have it listed somewhere in the top 10 of all time which is recockulous. Good? Yes. Great? Maybe. Top 10 all time? Only if you're a black-and-white-humping-art-house-fairy. Or maybe a chick.

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