Casablanca ★★★★½

We’ll always have Casablanca’s reputation as the greatest love story in cinema. In 1941, though, we had the backdrop of the most cataclysmic war of the last century. In Rick’s cafe, Ilsa’s husband Victor tries to drown out Germany’s anthem with the singing of the French national anthem. Meanwhile, when Sam plays “As Time Goes By” once more, for old time’s sake, he brandishes a weapon in the only war Rick seems to care about.

Casablanca might seem like one of the usual suspects of classic American films: Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain. But rarely has the examination of one man’s soul been foregrounded against the examination of an entire world’s soul. Bogart’s romantic “rival” doesn’t make it easy to root for Rick; quite the contrary. He appears to be courageous and noble where Rick is cynical and aloof. Rick has to fight through a haze of gin and fog and heartbreak, to find a way back to caring about something other than himself.

We can only hope that Rick’s redemption becomes the world’s redemption.

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