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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 Bobby B
February 25th, 2008

Destiny Takes a Hand

You could, if you wanted to, list all the reasons why Casablanca is great.

It's an amazing story set against the ultimate epic backdrop of World War II. It takes place in a location that couldn't get more exotic. It's a love triangle with world-wide implications and only the three people involved know it. They are all honorable people that the audience loves and respects and they all act as you hope you would if you were placed in this situation.

The plot is not especially complex but has just enough intrigue stirred in to raise the stakes to epic proportions. The balancing act pulled off by the director, Mike Curtiz and his cast and crew is exhilarating. War, espionage, love, courage, fear and hope are all kept in the air seemingly effortlessly for the duration of the film's 102 minutes of running time. Information is conveyed in a line or a look and then the movie quickly moves on to its next moment. The script just might be the most precise ever written. It's pared down to the essentials that drive the story forward but it does so with wit and a panache rarely equaled in film. Further, the humor seems to come directly out of the characters, a mechanism for coping in their desperate situation. This is all the more amazing when you realize that when Casablanca was filmed they were literally writing the script as they went along. Until they shot the ending no one -- writers, director or cast -- knew how the movie was going to end. Perhaps this added to the urgency captured in the film itself.

But it's not just the script, it's the delivery. If there is only one reading for any given line that is the absolute perfect reading every actor in the movie seems to hit it. The supporting cast is fairly large, most of the actors have two or three moments -- at most -- to tell the audience everything they need to know about their character and all of them prove deft craftsmen: S.Z. Sakall as Karl the fat romantic and quiet patriot, Leonid Kinskey as “the crazy Russian” bartender, Madeleine Lebeau as Yvonne, Rick's spurned ex-lover, Curt Bois, the pickpocket always warning travelers to be wary of unscrupulous opportunists, and Marcel Dalio, the dealer always scrupulously looking out for “Monsieur Rick's'' money. This remarkable array of distinct personalities makes for an extremely rich canvas from which the main characters come to vivid life.

Then of course, there are the names everyone knows: Conrad Veidt, Paul Heinreid, Dooley Wilson, Sydney Greenstreet, and the remarkable Peter Lorre. Finally, there is Claude Rains, impeccably creating with his Captain Renault, one of the most indelible characters in film history. None of them miss a moment. Ever.

Humphrey Bogart is arguably the single greatest movie star of all time. This movie marked a transition for him. He had developed a tough-guy screen persona that had made him a star. Here that out-sized demeanor took on an added dimension that made him eminently human -- romance. Rick Blaine is a man turned bitter by a broken heart. A large part of the movie is how Rick goes from behaving how we do behave when things go badly for us to behaving as we'd hope to behave when the chips are down. Rick changed everything for Bogart. He became the guy who got the girl, a leading man. And as an actor he was now seen as someone who could take on roles of greater and greater depth and complexity. His performance in Casablanca was not just a watershed moment in his career but a seminal point in movie history.

Bogart once said of Ingrid Bergman, that when the camera pulled in on her and she was saying “I love you”, it would “make anyone seem romantic.” It's easy to see what he means. There have been few, if any, actresses that match her devastating combination of otherworldly beauty and phenomenal acting talent and her Ilsa Lund Laszlo is nothing less than iconic, the standard for all subsequent romantic heroines. (AND she's got a great accent -- rowr!)

As many great lines as Casablanca has it has almost as many remarkable pictures. The scenes with Bogart and Bergman in his apartment with the lights shining through the slats in the window, the crowd at Rick's all standing to sing “La Marseillaise”, the final scene on the tarmac with the fog and the rain. Every picture is perfectly constructed, every shot in and of itself a work of art.

And then of course, there's the ending. Apparently, several endings were written but they shot this one first. When finished everyone intuitively understood what they'd achieved -- Perfection. It was the only ending they shot.

Yes, you could list all of these different aspects of what makes Casablanca great -- if you wanted to. But you would still be no closer to understanding one of America's greatest works of art. You can't “understand” magic. You can only experience it.

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Bobby B
Feb 25, 2008 4:13 PM
also wrote a review of Casablanca
There is something I wanted to mention that I didn't necessarily want to talk about in the review. I grew up watching this movie. My mother is a HUGE fan of older movies so I grew up that way. I'd seen this movie several times as a child. Later, as an adult, I went to go see it on a date at a theater and the moment when Ilsa says "who's the boy at the piano?" hit me like a cold bucket of water in the face. Sam was probably around twice Ilsa's age. Now Sam is given respect throughout the movie as an artist and as a friend. He calls Rick "boss" a lot -- but everybody who works for Rick does. It's made clear he sticks with Rick because he likes him. But as a audience member of African/Mexican-American descent this is a frustratingly constant danger. Sometimes you just want to watch a f*cking movie, you know? And then out of the blue, due to no fault of your own, you feel insulted -- or something. But I try and chalk it up to the times being what they were and move on. After all, it was just a few years past Hattie McDaniel saying in her acceptance speech that she hoped to continue being "a credit to her race." She still gets killed for that but you know, she was on her own. People like to b*tch about what's PC and what's not but racism is still a more complex issue for the oppressed so sorry if you feel forced to be considerate to other people. Okay, I'm not sorry. Anyway, just had to put that out there.

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