Critique of "Casablanca", #2
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
After years of avoiding it, I finally watched the infamous "Casablanca."
The Golden Era of Hollywood. Humphrey Bogart. Ingrid Bergman. And so on
and so on.
I have to admit I had never even known how those two doomed lovers looked or sounded. But overall I found both charming in their own ways. For one, Bogart has a distinctive voice and a great rhythm to his lines and dialogue. He looks old for 43 in my opinion. And that goes to show you what cigarettes and drinking can do to you, even if you're a Hollywood leading man. For seconds, Bergman is beautiful, even in black and white.
She has a wounded sensibility to her that shines throughout the picture. Their on-screen chemistry was evident and probably what holds the picture up after all these years. I'm not sure if they had an affair while filming (Wikipedia claims they didn't but
then they contradict themselves by saying Bergman was known to have affairs with all her
leading men. I guess Wikipedia is lying, Bergman is (claims she kissed Bogart, but didn't "know him", as in biblically, or Bogart is secretly gay because how could you not have an affair with this woman while filming this grand love story. For the sake
of method acting!), but I wouldn't doubt it.
Everybody puts this movie in their list of the greatest films of all time. Some even have it in
the top ten. And a few have it as number one. I think it's a great film with great lines
and a great theme song, "Time Goes By." Also, the pacing is fantastic. This movie really motors through the major story beats. It surprised me. Over the years I had built up an impression that old movies were slow because of a few experiences in the past and my own misperceptions really. This movie doesn't feel slow at all. It get's on with it. And I believe the editing and narrative, the sequential selection of scenes one after another, are top rate. A lot of modern filmmakers could learn a thing or two from the force of this films narrative.
Nevertheless, I wouldn't put this in my top ten list. Or even my top 20. Maybe top 100. But I don't know. I'm partial to action, glory, and epic tales. I love a good love story but the insignificance of the whole set and setting left me underwhelmed given this picture's status as One of the Greatest Ever. And indeed, I'm partially vindicated by the fact this picture was one of hundreds like it released by Hollywood in the early 1940s. And no one making it or involved with it, thought it would be anything more than that. Just another Hollywood flick with some big names and small profits.
To paraphrase a great line from the picture,
"Of all the movies in all the studio pictures in all of Golden Era Hollywood this one somehow stood above the rest."
It goes to show how fickle art, business, and life can be.