Wednesday, January 5, 2011
(November 1942, U.S.)
This is it! The one...the only...the legendary CASABLANCA! The greatest black and white classic film ever made! That's just my opinion, of course, but it's MY blog so it's MY opinion that counts around here!
So what can I begin to say about a film that has embedded itself in cinema history for nearly seventy years? What can I begin to say about a film that has been honored, quoted and even parodied by everyone from Woody Allen, to Bugs Bunny, to a NAKED GUN sequel? What can I say, indeed?
Well, let me begin by simply saying one legendary name to you...Humphrey Bogart at his coolest, most intense and even his most romantic role. It's right there in nearly every shot, every angle of him and just about everything he says. Just take a look at any shot of him taking a smooth drag from his cigarette as he observes life around him at his popular nightclub. As you might expect from him, Bogart is more at ease as the bitter and cynical operator of a joint than as a lover, but he manages to handle s both character assignments with superb finesse. That having been said, let me now say the name of Ingrid Bergman to you. Is there anyone else who could have possibly performed opposite "Bogey" in a role such as hers? Is there anyone else whom we could picture as the recipiant of the great, romantic line, "Here's looking at you, kid."
CASABLANCA is a film that simply makes the spine tingle and the heart take a leap. It's a film that combines sentiment, humor, melodrama, the intrigue of war, rebelious propoganda, intense moods, action, suspense and sacrifice. That's a lot of load for one film to carry, but hey, we're talking about CASABLANCA! In consideration of its filming and cinematography, there are many (too many!) points that I could reference, but one that constantly sticks out in my mind is at the end of the film when Rick (Bogart) has just made his ultimate sacrifice of saying goodbye to the love of his life, Ilsa (Bergman). As he and Louis Renault watch the escape plane take off in the fog, there is a look of sad regret on Rick's face that can easily provoke the viewer into asking themselves, "Why the hell did he ever let her go?" Maybe it's like that old song by Sting, "If you love someone, set them free." Maybe.
On a more personal note, let me tell you that it seems throughout my life I have been surrounded by the influence of classic films. As a kid, even if I hadn't actually seen the film in its entirety, I somehow still aware that King Kong climbed to the top of the Empire State Building and was shot down, that a blonde woman was slashed to death while taking a shower at an isolated motel and that CASABLANCA would always be on television more than once a year. As WPIX Channel 11 used to say, "We're playing it again." I'd also like to tell you that when I was younger and just starting to date a new girl, I would often insist that she watch CASABLANCA with me to see if she was the type who could appreciate good, classic cinema. If she couldn't...well, you knows if I wanted to continue dating her...unless, of course, I was getting laid (hey, I'm a GUY, for Christ sakes!). My wife, when I met her in 1998, was no exception to this rule of dating. Thank goodness for both of us that passed my CASABLANCA test! Finally, I'd like to tell you about the time I was talking films with this young college man a few years ago. When the discussion eventually turned to CASABLANCA, he told me he'd never heard of the film (???). Right then and there, I felt like I wanted to take hostages! I couldn't believe the young man's ignorance! What? The film is "before his time" and he shouldn't be expected to know of it? That's bullshit, people! Mozart, Elvis Presley and silent films are before MY time, but that hasn't stopped me from knowing a thing or two about them. I swear...KIDS!!!
Hey, did you know that if you look up the American Film Institute's (AFI) list of 100 greatest memorable film quotes, you'll see that CASABLANCA takes up the most selections with SIX of it's quotes? It's true! They are, for the record:
No. #5 - "Here's looking at you, kid."
No. #20 - "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
No. #28 - "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.'"
No. #32 - "Round up the usual suspects."
No. #43 - "We'll always have Paris."
No. #67 - "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."
That's quite a legacy, isn't it?
Favorite line or dialogue:
Signor Ugarte: "You despise me, don't you?"
Rick Blaine: "Well, if I gave you any thought, I probably would."
Ugarte: "But why? Oh, you object to the kind of business I do, huh? But think of all those poor refugees who must rot in this place if I didn't help them. Well, that's not so bad. Through ways of my own I provide them with exit visas."
Rick: "For a price, Ugarte. For a price."
Ugarte: "But think of all the poor devils who can't meet Renault's price. Well, I get it for them for half. Is that so parasitic?"
Rick: "I don't mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one."