Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Casablanca {1942}

Director: Michael Curtis
Main cast: Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman

Year: 1942
Country: USA

Language: English
Runtime: 102 min

Plot: In World War II Casablanca, Rick Blaine, exiled American and former freedom fighter, runs the most popular nightspot in town. The cynical lone wolf Blaine comes into the possession of two valuable letters of transit. When Nazi Major Strasser arrives in Casablanca, the sycophantic police Captain Renault does what he can to please him, including detaining Czech underground leader Victor Laszlo. Much to Rick's surprise, Lazslo arrives with Ilsa, Rick's one time love. Rick is very bitter towards Ilsa, who ran out on him in Paris, but when he learns she had good reason to, they plan to run off together again using the letters of transit. Well, that was their original plan....

No matter how many 'nice' words you can fish to describe such a rare jewel, no praise could equal the enchant of this milestone in the cinema history. Since I have neither intention nor reason to challenge my own belief, I will keep it brief in the hope to seize part of its soul.

Casablanca is, on one side, the most subtle interpretation of second world war II's intrigues of corrupted officers and unscrupulous vultures; and, on the other side, an understated account of the hopes and despair of some 'privileged' fugitives. Amongst this iffy environment of conspiracy and mischief, the suggestive re-encounter of Rick (Bogy) and Ilsa (Bergman) takes place.

The city of Casablanca, deceptively alien to the conflicts which were tearing Europe apart, is a strategic point for overseas escape, and Rick’s club represent a magical shelter. If this latter is indeed theatre of conspiracy and compromises, is also oasis of momentarily oblivion for its guests and place of sorrowful reminiscences for Ilsa and Rick, made vivid by the pianist recurrently playing ‘their’ song: As Time Goes by (written by Herman Hupfeld and performed by Dooley Wilson).

Rick’s sarcasm and acute irony are as memorable as Ilsa’s sweetness and commotion, admirably performed by Bergman. In this regard, I have selected below a few extracts from the script which I found particularly amusing and representative of Rick’s attitude towards life in times of war.

Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed."

Major Strasser: Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?
Rick: It's not particularly my beloved Paris.
Heinz: Can you imagine us in London?
Rick: When you get there, ask me!
Captain Renault: Hmmh! Diplomatist!
Major Strasser: How about New York?
Rick: Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade."

Rick's cynical attitude is counterbalanced by his extreme generosity, emotional vulnerability and unconditioned love for Ilsa, whose altruistic connotation is proved by the facts more than his words, resulting in a melancholic but commendable finale.

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