Lookin’ at ‘Casablanca’

Casablanca poster“Here’s lookin’ at you kid.” Well here I was finally lookin’ at this movie. That scene on the runway at night, that line over and over, that beginning of a beautiful friendship… finally I sat down and watched these classic moments unfold. Casablanca is a quintessential “old movie”. It’s black and white, fresh from 1942, and features the war while the war was still being fought. You can watch The Monuments Men if you like, but nothing beats the authenticity of a film like Casablanca.

At the heart of it all is love. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is an incredibly neutral character. He wants no hand in politics or scandal. He just wants to run his café, enjoy a drink or two, and try to forget about the long lost love of his life, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). It’s a bit of a shock then, when of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, Ilsa should wind up in his. She and her resistance-fighting companion, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), need papers to get to America and, well what do you know, Rick is in possession of two such documents, unsigned and ready for use. But will he hand them over and risk never seeing her again? Will he get mixed up in very un-neutral scandal and illegal activities to save her?

Ingrid Bergman is the quintessential lady-in-white. As it is a black and white film, her colour options are fairly limited, but still, if you can put any meaning to symbolism, her wardrobe does just that. She does a beautiful job as the leading lady, and has mastered the art of producing that one, lonely tear. Her broken-hearted romancer, Humphrey Bogart, delivers his lines with all the classic charm he can muster. Personally I don’t see the attraction, but he certainly plays his part with theatricality.

Casablanca looks like a film but sounds like a play. There is excellent use of angles and shadows, but the dialogue is full of stage directions like, “Why don’t you go upstairs” and, “We’ll be making an arrest in here shortly.” Although it was originally adapted from a play, it would have been nice to see a little less theater in the acting/staging.

That said, it pretty much ticks all the boxes for a dramatic classic: there’s corruption, Nazis, a feisty femme fetal, criminals, gambling, and yearning for days gone by. While the plot may be a bit tough to follow (1940s microphones weren’t the best), none of the characters are short on heart. Watery eyes from the unrequited lovers, and comical gimmicks from the supporting cast make Casablanca a well-rounded film. It certainly deserves to be called a classic. I tip my hat with a 7.5/10.

Click here to watch the trailer.

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