Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, discovers his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in town with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Laszlo is a famed rebel, and with Germans on his tail, Ilsa knows Rick can help them get out of the country.
Casablanca one of those deliciously heartbreaking movies. When I want to have a good cry without feeling like my insides have been kicked out, and when I get in that mood, Casablanca is usually the movie I watch (as opposed to its contender at the 1943 Academy Awards – The Ox-Bow Incident). Yes, it’s sad, but I can deal with the ending – Ilsa and Victor will be happy together, in the end, and as for Rick…well, Rick will be fine, too, doing whatever it is he and Louis end up doing. Naturally, I still cry, though, and not just at the end, because since I know the ending, all the foreshadowing and echoed lines and multiple playings of ‘As Time Goes By’ never fail to make me tear up, at least a little. Oh, and the Marseilles scene. That always gets me.
Besides describing my personal feelings when it comes to Casablanca, what can I say about this film that will be new and fresh? That I love it wholeheartedly and breathlessly? That each character is unique and I love half of them and hate the other half and that I feel extremely conflicted about Louis? That the script is a work of art with all the glittering, snappy, funny, romantic, gutwrenching dialogue? All that, and more, has been said.
But, whatever. I want to do it, too.
First, the part of loving it so hard and so much: I LOVE THIS MOVIE TO INFINITY AND BEYOOND. It’s definitely on my top ten favorite movies list, and maybe top five, and maybe top three (if anyone’s interested in the top ten, let me know and I’ll write a post about them). It’s that good. I know that the plot is a bit thin at times, mainly due to the supposedly infallible letters of transit (de Gaulle’s signature wouldn’t have meant a thing), but the acting and dialogue and quality and all that is so good that you can forget about all the plot holes. Or at least I can. The settings (Rick’s cafe is practically a character all of its own), Ilsa’s outfits, the flashbacks, the lovely score (I adore how ‘As Time Goes By’ is incorporated into the scoring for so many scenes)…everything comes together flawlessly to form one gorgeous, classic film.
The characters: I can’t decide on a favorite. There’s Rick and Ilsa, for starters. I like Humphrey Bogart quite a bit, and I think Rick was the one role of his that led me to that conclusion because before I watched Casablanca, the only thing I’d seen him in was Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in which he plays a rather…disturbed character. Anyway, I really like Rick. Really like him. Especially at the end when he does all the Heroic & Awesome things and sends Ilsa off with that tear-inducing final farewell. As for Ilsa, Ingrid Bergman plays her with a luminosity that’s alternately warm as the summer sun and cool as ice, and I can fully sympathize with her, though I don’t agree with her decision to leave Victor for Rick near the end. And, speaking of Victor, after seeing Casablanca about ten times, I appreciate him more than I did the first five or so times. Yes, he’s a little bland, but not as bad as I first thought, and he truly does love Ilsa and he is a great Underground leader. So, he’s okay.
Louis is a complicated character. I won’t spend a lot of time on him since this review it quite long already, but suffice to say, he alternately amuses, frustrates, and – at times – disgusts me. Very complicated, as I said. Strasser is a good villain – sufficently Nazi-ish without being too cartoonish. All the regulars at Rick’s, plus Ugarte, Ferrari, Yvonne, and all the other minor characters play their parts admirably and some of them, particularly Carl and Sascha give the film a great bit of humour and flavour. Oh, and Sam. How could I forget Sam? He’s one of my favorite characters – I love the look on his face when he first sees Ilsa walking in and how he gets out of there in a hurry when Rick sees Ilsa and comes over to talk to her. And the songs he plays/sings are great.
The script is wonderful. We all know of the iconic lines like “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’.” or “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” or “We’ll always have Paris.”, but there are plenty of conversations (particularly between Rick and Louis) that are brimming with wit and verve. Between the strong characterizations and the dialogue, Casablanca is, in many ways, a writer’s dream come true. (Here’s the full script, if you’re interested.) There are several scenes that I love – the singing of the Marseilles (there’s a look Ilsa gives Victor during that scene that leads me to believe she won’t be entirely unhappy with him when it comes right down to it), Rick’s extended flashback (I recognized the song that Rick and Ilsa dance to, which made me happy – it’s ‘Perfidia’), the bit where Rick lets that young man win all the money, the final scene, and so many others. Basically the whole movie.
*siiiiiiiiiigh* It’s sooooo good.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
*everyone bursts into tears*
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