Casablanca (1942) - Film Review
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Entirely an American Classic, Casablanca is established as one of the greatest films in American history and still remains a revered interest among audiences nationwide. But what makes Casablanca such a respectable and classical piece in regards to American cinema? Love, action, politics, comedy, drama, and witty dialogue all contribute to this realization and ultimately define film as a whole. In other words, Casablanca has a little bit of everything and that little bit of everything is the best of everything.
Rick is the epitome of the American hero throughout the 1940s. He doesn’t wear the American flag or believe strongly about patriotism. He is a Dynamic Character that began with saying repeatedly, “I stick my neck out for nobody,” and the way he handles the banker in the beginning and tells him “your cash is good at the bar,” the banker responds, “What? do you know who I am?” and Rick tells him, “I do. Your’e lucky the bar is open to you.” He also repeatedly foresees that politics are left strictly out of his bar and never smiles or changes expression. You do get a hint of his kindness when he helps Annina before she offers sex to Renault in exchange for an exit visa by helping her husband win the money he needed at the tables. Finally you see the ultimate change in Rick when he decides to let Victor go with Ilsa with the exit visas instead of making an escape for himself. Victor had the key to an integral part of the war effort and Rick realized that Victor needed to go instead of him, and thus put himself before something bigger than himself. Rick is an allegory, in my opinion, for the American involvement in World War II. Beginning with not wanting any part of it, but occasionally helping those in need, and finally putting itself before something greater and being a part of the Allies.
Casablanca was made in 1942, a year after The United States entered World War II. The film would have evoked a large deal of emotion considering the Nation was in the middle of a war many believed they shouldn’t be a part of. Resonance was very strong I believe in one particular scene when the Nazi party, led by Major Strasser, were present one night at Rick’s Cafe begin reciting loudly the German national anthem while Victor led the opposition by singing the French national anthem. Most of the crowd joins in with Victor and silence Major Strasser and his men. Both national anthems are seen as motifs: one representing the Germans and Axis powers, and the other representing the Allies. One of the reasons the film became so popular at the time had to do with this very essence of what was one everyone’s mind, and the figurative rising against the evils of the Axis Powers represented in that scene.
I recurrently found the film to resemble that of film noir. The lighting method of the film was primarily Low-Key lighting as seen in this picture of Ilsa:
There was only one Key light coming in from our left side facing the shot, and a reflector giving off the opposing light from our right view of the shot. This gives the actor a deeper complexion that gives off an edger, sexier, more emotional view. Consistent close-up shots give the characters a more personal approach allowing us to relate with them more. I enjoyed the clever use of flashback to show Rick’s previous relationship with Ilsa, as well as the ocular film transitions used to distinguish the present from the flashback; The very transitions first seen in George Melies’ Le Voyage dans la lune. One of my favorite uses of Mise-en-scene within Casablanca was the motif of Herman Hupfeld’s song, “As Time Goes By”. It symbolized Rick and Ilsa’s love for one another and was a pleasure to listen to. I enjoyed the film’s use of witty dialogue as well. Sound was still relatively new at the time, so filmmakers filled there movies with rich clever dialogue that made the film for the most part; Casablanca was no different. While there are many good examples of this, one of my favorites was when Ugarte was up selling exit visas in Rick’s Cafe and he turns to see Rick watching him. Ugarte tells Rick, “You despise me, don’t you?” and Rick responds, “If I gave you any thought I probably would.” All this use of Mise-en-scene made the film edger, and more personal, giving the audience more of a connection with the characters.
Even today, modern audiences adore Casablanca, and it is enjoyed by all ages. I believe this has to do in part because of Rick’s decision to let Victor take the visa, and stay in Casablanca. It meant that he put himself before something bigger than himself. Doing what was right, which was to be patriotic and selfless. Selflessness is still a major character quality that is highly respected among people today, and that is why modern audiences, in part, still love the film today. I personally believe he made the right choice, because he was right in saying that they were young and lovers, but that time had passed and it was time to grow up and live in the real world. Plus, if he didn’t, Rick wouldn’t have given us that tense shooting scene, and those famous lines, “Here’s looking at you, kid” and “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”