Casablanca (1942)

Cinema doesn’t get much better than this.  Casablanca is one of the truly outstanding movies, a movie to watch and re-watch.

It is not, in the strict sense of the term, a war movie, that’s obvious, it’s a war-time movie or, if you like, a war romance.

It is one of the movies I have seen the most. At least four times. One of the viewings was a mixed bag as it was the Technicolor version. Casablanca is the prototypical black and white movie. The Technicolor version was really outrageous and sacrilegious. So watch out, if you have never seen it, the original Casablanca must be b/w.

Casablanca tells a tragic love story but more than that it’s incredibly atmospherical, it has some of the most famous movie lines, a haunting tune and two great actors, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at their best.

Rick and Ilsa met years ago in Paris, at the beginning of WWII. We see their love story in flashbacks. When Rick decides to leave Paris with Ilsa, she simply doesn’t show up at the train station.

Years later they meet again in unoccupied Morocco. Rick is the hardened and cynical owner of one of the most popular bars in Casablanca. All sorts of people visit or hide in his establishment. Pretty much like all sort of people have come to Morocco for various reasons, most of them however hoping to get a visa for the US. There are also some nasty German characters swarming the premises.

When Ilsa and her husband appear in Rick’s bar, this is a shock for everyone. What happened in Paris, why did she not turn up and what does she want now? Ilsa and her husband try to get to America.
Will Rick help her or not? Will she leave her husband?

It is hard to imagine that anyone hasn’t seen this movie but, just in case, I’m not going to tell anything more.

Rick’s character is one of my favorite movie characters. I like the dialogue in Casablanca a lot. Rick is very cynical but has a point. He also illustrates that while women tend to get depressed, men tend to start drinking when life is too rough. He is one of those great monosyllabic movie characters with a “Don’t-you-dare-to come-too-close” attitude. I think it is precisely Rick’s character and Bogart’s great acting that prevent this movie of an unhappy love triangle to become mushy.

A movie like this would be unthinkable nowadays for many reasons. One can be summed up by the term “esthetic of smoking”. Not that I smoke but smoke rings look good in black and white movies, they add some mystery, just like fog.


9 thoughts on “Casablanca (1942)

  1. the war movie buff says:

    I generally do not think the old black and white classics hold up and are usually overrated. This movie is the exception. The weird thing is Military History magazine determined that it is a war movie (to which I agree) and then placed it at #65. That puts it 5 places behind The Tin Drum which is less of a war movie and vastly inferior as a film. How does something like that happen?

    As far as the smoking, I find it distracting. Another example of how modern films have an advantage over the old ones. Better technology and less disgusting habit. It also means modern actors have to work harder because they have to figure out what to do with their hands.

    • I love black and white movies and still think it is one of the best. The filming is great, the contrast works well.
      It has a great combination of things to offer. For me it is the essential Bogart movie. Without him there wouldn’t be a Casablanca, withouth Ingrid Bergman, maybe. What do you think, would other actors have worked? Another female lead?
      I like the foggy looking smoke… I hate the habit in real life, but that is something quite different.

      • the war movie buff says:

        I agree that without Bogart it would not have been memorable, but I do not think Bergman was essential. Barbara Stanwyck would have fit. Vivien Leigh. Carole Lombard.

      • That was my point because funny enough, i think they do not look that good together. It does work anyway.

  2. TBM says:

    I love this movie! I didn’t even know they had a colorized version. I hate when they do this. The movies never look right. The shadows are lost and everything looks off.

  3. […] Casablanca (US 1942) WWII, Morocco. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in one of the greatest classics of cinema history. (See my review) […]

  4. nem baj says:

    « Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion. Just as the height of pain may encounter sensual pleasure, and the height of perversion border on mystical energy, so too the height of banality allows us to catch a glimpse of the sublime. Something has spoken in place of the director. If nothing else, it is a phenomenon worthy of awe. » — Umberto Eco.

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