Film Studies: Casablanca Sept 25, 2013 8:28:06 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Sept 25, 2013 8:28:06 GMT -5
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
The trailer title card for Casablanca.
NOTE: Casablanca begins my four-month long movie watching series simply titled "Film Studies," where I provide reviews of all the films I have watched in my semester-long film studies class in my senior year of high school. Reviews will not be read aloud in class unless otherwise stated below, at the end of the review.
I've stated in previous reviews how difficult it is to review a film regarded as "one of the best ever made" or a classic because it would appear from constant analysis, its permanent mark in the minds of millions, and its loyal following that everything that could be said about the specific film has been said again and again. My thoughts on Casablanca aren't atypical or contrary to the public's consensus on the film. It's a bold picture with a lot layers and an engaging romance story all around.
The film concerns American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns and operates a nightclub in Casablanca which has now been considered a haven for French refugees ("no one really lives in Casablanca," so the saying goes). People gather at this nightclub in hopes of purchasing "letters of transit," which will allow refugees to leave the area and flock to America. One day, out of the blue, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) show up to Rick's nightclub, much to Rick's surprise, as Ilsa is one of the only women he has ever fallen in love with. Ilsa, from the start, is a beautiful, almost angelic woman with incomparable charisma and beauty. Upon her return, Rick must question if he still has feelings for Ilsa, as does Ilsa, all while remembering that Victor does have the ability to get her to safety in America.
Like many films of its time, Casablanca was made, released, well-received but, at the time, thought of as just another drama made in the wake of another world war. It wasn't until the war ended that the popularity and the great reception of Casablanca began to flourish and expand before the film earned its place as one of the top American films ever made one of the reasons for this, I believe, is how many angles from which one can view this film. It can be seen as a morality tale, a romance (both which I find to be the strongest ways to see the film), an allegorical picture with Rick representing America's neutrality during the time of the war and Ilsa representing France as a country tempting to sway the U.S. in one particular direction, or as a period piece with only a handful of characters.
Moreover, I'm instantaneously reminded of one scene in particular whenever I think of Casablanca and its true emotional power that scene comes later in the film when the French national anthem is sung in a room full of refugees, many of them French, who authentically show emotion due to the entire scene being an act of improvisation. The shot of a young woman bawling in part nationalistic pride, part shock hits right in the soul.
Something must also be said about the black and white photography in the film, which is purely utilized to generate an effect and an emotion on the viewer. Consider the scene where Ilsa attempts to get through to a clearly weary and slightly drunk Rick. Director Michael Curtiz fixates the camera so that both characters can be seen, but the left corner of the screen, where Rick lies, is darker and bleaker than where Ilsa is, which is the top right part of the frame. In Ilsa's corner, it's brighter and the lighting alludes to a more optimistic feeling. This is a brilliant example of doing the difficult task of capturing two moods in one single shot.
Intricacies like that, the beautiful chemistry between Bogart and Bergman, the harsh morality at the center of it all, the controversial ending, and the immensity of emotions is why Casablanca is regarded as such a classic picture.
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid. Directed by: Michael Curtiz.