movie film review | chris tookey


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  Casablanca Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
9.94 /10
Humphrey Bogart , Ingrid Bergman , Claude Rains
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Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch from the play Everyboody Comes To Rick's by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. Casey Robinson wrote the flashback love story, the scene where Heinreid comes to Rick, and most of the final scene. Producer Hal Wallis wrote the final line - "Louis, I think this is the beginning of beautiful friendship." Other contributors to the script included Albert Maltz, Aeneas Mackenzie and Wally Kline. Director Michael Curtiz and star Humphrey Bogart also had suggestions acted upon.

Released: 1942
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: BW
Length: 102

Depressed, apolitical cafe proprietor in World War II (Humphrey Bogart, pictured centre right) abandons neutrality for old flame (Ingrid Bergman, far right), but renounces her in favour of beautiful friendship with dodgy French policeman (Claude Rains, pictured second left).
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Why have the critics always got Casablanca so wrong? One reason it has been underrated is that it was not made in the way that great pictures are meant to be made. It constitutes eternal and uncomfortable proof that great films are often made not by auteurs, but by collaboration between craftsmen, at uncomfortable speed, within an authoritarian studio system, and with a cavalier attitude to creative talent (at least eight writers, and probably twelve, contributed to the final screenplay).

Another reason for its critical failure - it was not disliked, just damned with faint praise or patronised as mere "entertainment" - is its unfashionable politics: it was, and remains, pro-war propaganda. The hero's transformation from disinterested isolationist into an American prepared to kill for the right cause may have been just about acceptable against Nazis. It became much less "politically correct" during the Cold War, as the post-war liberal establishment argued that America had no right to police the world.

Although the film is often dismissed as romantic or sentimental, its romanticism is not the kind beloved of liberals. Bogart - like Celia Johnson in another unfashionable but well-loved film, Brief Encounter - comes to realise that romantic love and personal fulfilment are not enough. Both films end with acts of self-sacrifice. Casablanca is not conventionally romantic at all, and is profoundly antipathetic towards the kind of emotional self-indulgence which resulted in permissiveness and the "me" generation.

The other reason why the film has never been intellectually fashionable is that the posher critics have always been notoriously incapable of distinguishing between sentiment and sentimentality (a legacy, perhaps, of having American cinema try to manipulate their sensitive emotions, week after week). Casablanca is the most shameless tear-jerker of all time. If you don't blub when Bergman and Bogart meet in Rick's Cafe and during the final airport scene, there's something wrong with you. Whether you care to admit in print that you wept at a commercial Hollywood movie is another matter.

Casablanca is, as almost every non-critic knows instinctively, a masterpiece, a high point in cinema. The screenplay may be the result of last-minute rewrites and studio strife, but it ended up as a triumphant example of intricate plotting, subtle exposition and witty dialogue. It is high drama and not (as it's often accused of being) melodrama - for the simple reason that all the big scenes of emotion are thoroughly motivated by the writers and beautifully underplayed by the actors. Bogart, Bergman and Rains all give Oscar-worthy performances (though none of them won, and Bergman wasn't even nominated). Michael Curtiz's direction is unobtrusively excellent, and Arthur Edeson's Oscar-nominated cinematography bettered even his work on trendier classics such as All Quiet on the Western Front and The Maltese Falcon.

"There is a great deal of of corn there, more corn than the states of Kansas and Iowa combined. But when corn works, there's nothing better."

(Julius Epstein, co-writer, 1992)

"All I was trying to do was save it from being a flop."

(Howard Koch, co-writer)

"There was a whole group of people sitting around being terribly unhappy, not knowing what we were going to do the following day. Humphrey Bogart was extremely unhappy. He spent most of his time between takes arguing with director Mike Curtiz. Curtiz couldn't eat a lunch because he had to argue with Hal Wallis [ the producer]."

(Ingrid Bergman)

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