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Monday, May 19, 2014

Sean Kelly

Blindspot 2014: Casablanca

casablancaThis month, I chose to watch, one of the all-time classic screen romances, Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca.  During the Second World War, the Moroccan city of Casablanca is a place where refugees wait in purgatory, while they try to find a way to obtain letters of transit, so they can be free to escape to America.  American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who runs the nightclub "Rick's Café Américain," is given such papers by a shady man named Signor Ugarte (Peter Lorre), who asks Rick to hide them from the authorities.  The papers are meant for fugitive Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), who happened to have previously had a love affair with Rick in Paris.  As the bitterness from the sudden end of the love affair returns, Rick has to decide whether or not he will help Victor and Ilsa leave Casablanca.

Even though this was my first time seeing Casablanca in its entirety, it is practically impossible in this day and age to see the film without already knowing how it is going to turn out.  Probably more than anything else, the film is most famous for its foggy final scene, where Rick says goodbye to Ilsa, before she departs with Victor.  The scene, and the line "Here's looking at you, kid," has been quoted and parodied countless times over the years.  The film is also the origin of the phrase “Play it again, Sam,” in reference to Rick’s piano player Sam, even though that exact wording is never used.

For some reason I always had the impression that the great character actor Peter Lorre had a major supporting role in Casablanca.  As such, I was a bit disappointed to find that he only appears briefly towards the start of the film, providing Rick with the letters of transit, which play a role in the remainder of the plot.  I suppose I confused Lorre with Claude Rains, who is quite prominent as Captain Louis Renault. Of course, the film is all about Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as the two main romantic leads, who have great chemistry over the course of the film.

Casablanca is just as much a World War II film as it is a romance, with German Major Heinrich Strasser (Conrad Veidt) being the main antagonist of the film.  It is interesting to note that the war was still in its early years at the time Casablanca was made, with the United States had not yet having entered the war.  It is sort of ironic in how America is portrayed in Casablanca as the ultimate escape from World War II, even though the film is taking place right around the time of the attack on Pearl Harbour.  Of course with cinema being the ultimate for the escapism, the war does take a backseat to the romantic moments between Bogart and Bergman.

For a film that is known more for its individual moments than the plot as a whole, I can say that I overall liked Casablanca, though I wouldn’t say that I loved it through and through.  However, the film is still worth checking out, just to see that guy in the fedora go “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).