Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Casablanca Fathom Event (2023) Revisit


I have written about this movie before, but as you can see from all the "Jaws" and "Lawrence of Arabia" posts, I don't necessarily feel sated by one entry on a film. "Casablanca" may be one of the most important films in my love of movies. The main character is my namesake, and the circumstances under which I first fell under it's spell, tell a traditional story of a movie fanatics love affair. 

Eleven years ago, there was a 70th Anniversary screening by Fathom Events, You can read my comments on that occasion here:

My opinion on the film has not changed at all, the movie is still perfection. The Sunday Night show that we went to was three quarters full, which is good, but the audience was elderly, which is less so. That comes from someone who just reached the Social Security milestone, so it was noticeable. This is a program that is designed to sell the release of the film on a 4K format, which probably means little to most of the fans who came out, but maybe it will help bring in some younger viewers so that the near Universal respect that this film is held in will continue. 

There has been a Social Media prompt the last couple of weeks, listing a series of items to answer, you know: "Movie that I Hate", "Movie that I find overrated",  "Movie that I can watch over and over again". Several of my on-line friends played along and the one item that stood out to me was that at least three of them answered "Movie I should have seen but haven't"; CASABLANCA.

Far be it for me to chastise people for having a blind spot, believe me I have plenty. I am just surprised because this is such an accessible film Unlike some foreign language cinema masterpiece, or a dense metaphysical dive into existentialism, "Casablanca" is emotionally engaging, easy to dive into and a pleasure rather than a chore. I hope that all of you who have not caught up to it will do so soon. 

The love story at the center of the film, features a broken romance, a love triangle and the complications of the Nazi threat to the world. All of those get a satisfying resolution at the end, at least from a moral perspective. Everyone lives up to their duty and faith in the face of horror. My favorite elements of the film however, repeatedly involve Claude Rains as Captain Renault. His presenting self is as a neutral in regard to others and the politics of the war. He cynically accuses Rick of being a sentimentalist underneath his gruff exterior. Renault, is among the least moral characters in Casablanca, engaging in corruption and exploiting women through his power to grant an exit visa. Yet he is also the most charming and insightful of characters, and every time he and Rick engage in verbal by-play, it is music to my ears. 

So many films have good stories and dialogue that services the story, but it feels mannered and manufactured. Every line in this movie feels organic to the characters that are being presented. Sascha playfully flirts with Rick's current girl Yvonne, but it is not heavy handed and full of double entendres, instead it is light, fun and reflective of his personality. Peter Lorre's Ugarte is slimy with a sense of neediness that makes us sympathize with him in spite of his obvious faults. Carl is suitably felicitous as Bogarts major domo of the Café American, and he is a human being who reflects our own concerns about the characters in the main story. I will leave Ferrari, Strasser, Sam, Lazlo and so many others to another time, let's just say they are all perfectly cast and deliver performances that make the script sing.

The esteem I have for this movie can also be read in my birthday list from two years ago:

Till we meet again, we will always have Paris. 

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