26/09/2013

Casablanca (1942)

Film: Casablanca
Release: 1942, Theatrical
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In the early 1940's, hundreds of Europeans fled to North Africa to catch the plane to Lisbon, where they could fly to America and escape the horrors of the second world war. The last stop on the route to Lisbon is unoccupied French Morocco. Our story takes place in Casablanca, where a man's café plays host to neutral ground.

Hans' thoughts:

One of the most quoted movies of all time, the story of Casablanca is one of love, loss, and self-sacrifice for the greater good. We meet our reluctant hero in the city of Casablanca, in this time a place where money talks - and not much else. As large as the scope of the movie is, illustrating major points about the second world war, most of it takes place in a café not much bigger than a tv-set of today. Most of the score of the film is therefore diegetic, being played beautifully by an onscreen band and pianist. Historically, the movie presents the viewpoints of people who lived with hearing news about the war every day, and curiously in that regard, Casablanca was invaded around the time the movie was made and released.

Part of the appeal of Casablanca is the cozy center of Rick's Café, the main turning point of the movie. Outside in the rest of the world, everything is hell breaking loose but the café is like the little place where the people of it's day could find safe haven, regardless of politics. Our reluctant hero Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, is the owner of the café. He has certain principles and he tries his best to be neutral in every regard - even women. As far as the hero's journey goes, Rick certainly seems to go through a couple of the steps. When he is given the opportunity to fix his crisis, it is with much reluctance and by the point of no return he has completely pulled up his roots from everything he once knew. It's not all dark though, as much as Rick is a struggling character he also has a certain charm about him, this is because of the writing style of the Epstein bros., who gave the movie a slight comedic angle making Rick and his peers masters of sarcasm.

The female lead of the story, played by the lovely Ingrid Bergman, is a woman who has had the naiveté of her youth stolen from her much too soon, and the complete mess that is the relationship between her and Rick is one of the major driving forces behind the tale. She's confused about every decision she takes, but loyalty is a major quality of hers to say the least. As for the way the movie is shot, it plays it safe. This was originally made as dime-a-dozen romance movie so it wasn't an ambitious project by anyone involved. However, somehow they have managed to make the back-drop shot method still work compared to modern movies. In case you're not aware, the back-drop method is the way of having actors in front of a projected video working as a backdrop. It's a simplistic method but it gets the job done and the lack of color certainly helps in terms of not making the change in quality too jarring.

Casablanca is a timeless tale, as much as it is based around the ongoing war few can not admit to relating to the drama in a good old fashioned triangle-romance. What makes it interesting is that it might as well have ended much differently, which would have made the story trivial and without much substance, however a mix between the nature of the age it was made, combined with changing the writers 4 times have made the movie more of a "best of all worlds" mixed bag. The movie has goofy recognizable characters, a simple plot, but at the same time it also allows itself to try and fully explore all the elements of the story. From the battle between two music numbers in the bar, to the ambitious flashback to the lovers' time in paris to the off-the-wall endning about sacrificing your own happiness for something much greater then yourself - this story tells a tale of a man who lost his way and found it again. Humphrey Bogart played the man Rick in such a way that he is today the prototype for the reluctant but good at it's core hero. Much like Han Solo or Indiana Jones would be in the 70's and 80's or Eddie Valiant would be in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

While the movie was not shot very ambitiously, the same can not be said for the lighting. Throughout the movie, Director Mark Curtiz has chosen to play a lot on Shadows, making the movie a study in Negative space, much like the Noir genre and the Sin City comic books would be inspired by later. Indeed, one could make the argument that the lighting of Casablanca, combined with Rick's charm would be a prototype of modern iterations of superheroes. 
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