Ahh, week 2. Hits ya like a ton of bricks, doesn’t it? Like that second day of your New Year’s Resolution to work out every day when you realize you’ve made an enormous mistake. But that’s okay! You’re here! And I am extremely happy that you are. This week’s film is ‘Casablanca.’ For whatever reason, this is one of the films that you sort of have to see if you want to call yourself a cinephile, and it was one that I hadn’t seen before this week. Let’s get to it!
Filmed and set during the beginning of World War II, ‘Casablanca’ tells the story of an American named Rick Blaine (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) who, after spending some time in France, fled to French Morrocco to escape the German occupation and start his own club. His newfound city, Casablanca, has become a hub to refugees fleeing war-torn areas in hopes of obtaining transit papers and catching a boat to the U.S. Rick, the somewhat jaded, host unto himself, finds himself in possession of some Letters of Transit, which to him have nothing more than monetary value. That is until his former lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) arrive in Casablanca fleeing the Germans, which leaves Rick in a pickle.
If you are like me anytime you dust off a really old movie, you have to mentally prepare yourself for a very different experience. Is this movie going to hold up? Or will it be one of those movies that were great for the time and sort of lives on based on name recognition alone? That especially applies when you go back as far as the 1940s. For example, I loved ‘Citizen Kane’ and I still very much feel that it holds up, whereas ‘The Maltese Falcon’ felt like a movie from a bygone era. Anyway, I often find myself in that frame of mind when I watch older movies and I think that is important to be aware of if I hope to give an honest review.
With ‘Casablanca,’ you know within the first 10 minutes that you have stumbled into something rather magnificent. The film starts with a short narrated montage to set the stage for the story. It’s well-written and takes a potentially complicated setup and smooths it out so everyone feels comfortable. From that point really until the end of the film (which is a crisp 102 minutes by the way), you are hit with plot point after plot point with very little filler. It’s very refreshing! In fact, I really tried to let myself relax and just enjoy the narrative without worrying too much about themes because it is so well-crafted. It’s a perfect example that a story doesn’t have to be complicated to be complex. You can use a story that is easy to follow and still build excellent, deep characters with rich, human emotions along the way.
And frankly, it’s the humanness of this movie that caught me off-guard. I have seen Humphrey Bogart in a few films before this (‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘The Big Sleep’ most memorably) and I was never really impressed. He was always typecast as the carefree, nonchalant but amazing detective type with that signature nasally voice and I was really expecting to get that Bogart once again. And don’t get me wrong, you’ll still recognize Bogie. But his performance this time around is something much more real and his chemistry with Ingrid Bergman is unbelievably powerful.
Additionally, the screenwriting is excellent, even outside of all of the famous quotes. Each joke and jab lands and still earns a snicker nearly 80 years later, which is insanely impressive when you think about it. Not to mention the film has stylish cinematography, excellent set design, and everything else that you would expect a film of this clout to have.
And, just like ‘Casablanca’ itself, my review is simple. There’s so much to love about this movie and very, very little to pick at. I could obviously sit here and gush about ‘Casablanca’ for 1000 more words but I won’t do that to you. After all, it is only week 2. Don’t want to push it too hard.
All told, ‘Casablanca’ is the kind of movie that reminds you why cinema is so awesome. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and still one of a kind. I find it so cool to watch iconic movies and to immediately recognize parts of the movie that have inspired some of my favorites. Hopefully, you had a similar experience. There is a reason this movie is one that you have to see and I’m certainly glad I now have.
Kernel Score: 9.7/10
On to week 3’s challenge which is a “Low Budget, Big Box Office” movie. Even though, we have technically checked this box with ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ there is no double-dipping in the 52-week Movie Challenge. If you are gonna go, go all out. And the movie I have selected for us is…. ‘Rocky!’ It’s been a super long time since I’ve seen this movie and it is always the first to come to mind when you think of low-budget smash hits. So, please watch ‘Rocky’ this week and come by next week for another post that I think we can all agree…. is going to be a knockout (I’ll see myself out).
In all seriousness, thanks for reading/watching. I’ll see you next week!