Sunday, April 24, 2011
Does any year seem like a more classic sounding year for Hollywood than 1942? Is any actor more classic than Bogart? Is any director more classic than Michael Curtiz, one of the most prolific filmmakers in the first 50 years of cinema's history? Is any story more classic than a romance at the dawn of World War II with nazis, a love triangle, and a homely nighttime cafe where tensions collide like opposing tidal waves? Is any character more classic than Rick Blaine, the cynical hero of the film? Is any supporting character more classic than Captain Renault, played by the incomparable Claude Raines? Is any ending more classic than the mighty one here, which contains three of the most classic lines in the movies and a moral decision that trumps even the one made by Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, released the previous year? Is any movie song more classic than As Time Goes By? And is any title more classic than Casablanca, simple and elegant, perfectly juxtaposed with the endless complications throughout the film? The truth is nothing speaks timeless classic like this movie. Even the most classic movie critic (if not the brightest) Leonard Maltin calls it the best American movie of all time. And even Bogart dons the trench coat and fedora at the end. Is any look more classic than that? I first saw Casablanca in 2007, a few days after learning that it wasn't a John Wayne western (I'm still not sure how that idea ever got in my head), and because I was unaware of the impact the film had on many generations, it didn't really have an impact on me. But over the years as I learned more about movies, I learned more about Casablanca, to the point where I felt I had seen it many, many times. But nothing compares to actually seeing it again, which I did recently, and loved more than I thought I ever would. Roger Ebert said that no movie captures the romance of going to the movies than The Third Man. While that's true, I think Casablanca is more deserving of such a rich, gratifying compliment. Greatness lives on here.