Casablanca ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"A cynical American expatriate struggles to decide whether or not he should help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape French Morocco."

Once in a blue moon, and I don't mean discussed over the beer, I'll be asked what my favorite movie is. My favorite movie of all time. For any bonafide cinephile, that's a hard question to answer or at least one that tends to vary. But quite often, more times than none, I'm inclined to answer instantly that my favorite film happens to be Casablanca. You should see the puzzled facial reactions that follow. I mean, I'm a natural avid horror fanatic with a tendency to indulge in comedic territory. I love action extravaganza's when done right. And yet, Casablanca is usually the film that comes to mind for me whenever I'm asked that question.
The first time I saw Casablanca was in my senior year in high school. My creative writing teacher brought the film in sometime during the winter when he was feeling sick; instead of calling out of work, he chose to play us a film broken in two viewings for two days. Most of my fellow classmates, including three of my friends, found little interest in the 1942 picture, casually gossiping amongst themselves about obscure teenage-related shit or checking their phones religiously. But I was glued to the screen. Both days. I loved the movie and I wholeheartedly admit I was one of those kids who usually slacked off or had a problem paying attention in class. But I loved Casablanca. So much so that when I had the time I went to FYE and bought myself a DVD copy. Today, I own that same DVD, a splendid blu-ray copy, and a 50th anniversary collectors edition VHS copy I found in a thrift store, still in relatively great condition. That's how much I love this flick!
Now this movie is generally regarded as one of the greatest films of all time and as such, often gets multiple open-ended interpretations from various sources. That's a magnificent magical trait the film has going for it. Even for me, anytime I rewatch the film (I've seen it countless times by now), I always find something new no matter how large or miniscule to contemplate over. It could be a subtle detail in the plot or dialogue and I'll argue over in my head its significance. And for me, everything that's represented on screen in this outstanding film is simply highly significant.
Although Casablanca is often regarded as a romantic drama, I don't always view it as just that. I see themes of sacrifice and meticulous manipulation run rampant in each and every frame. I'd wager their are more deceitful characters in Casablanca than Game Of Thrones; the HBO television series is obviously more relevant, sexual and gory than Casablanca, but in terms of how cutthroat the characters can be, well if you pay the utmost attention to detail here, you'll see what I mean. The romance itself isn't irritating or unrealistic; it's actually poignantly truthful in how its depicted: love isn't easy, it's downright dangerous. Political intrigue serves as another allegorical theme. The devious convolutions of the ingenious plot unravel marvelously to deliver an unforgettable experience. That's another brilliant aspect going for Casablanca; no matter how old it is by today's standards, it never feels dated. 78 years after its initial release and I still find more intelligence, flavor, atmosphere, and elogance within the confines of this movie than most of what's released in theaters today.
The production is a stunning achievement in itself. Director Michael Curtiz and his film crew manage to transport viewers to another world by making Casablanca such an undeniably vivid place. Filmed in Arizona and California, it astonishes me how I immediately assumed first watch that this was actually filmed in Morocco and Paris, France. That's how well they sell the belief of what we're seeing on screen is the actual Casablanca.
The cinematography provided by Arthur Edeson is spectacular. In every shot, there is an attention to detail that is so gratifying and every angle serves a particular purpose. When the cinematography is coupled with amazing lighting and editing, it's just flawless. Take for example, the close-ups on character's faces when their crying or smiling or a simple nod of the head. Take for example the noirish appeal during sequences such as when Rick (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) is taking money from his club's safe and the camera depicts his shadow among the wall performing the act. Details such as the chess board Rick has in front of him reveal the antisocial, cynical nature of his character and other details that sprout up do the same for other characters. The music is exquisite and that theme song "As Time Goes By" originally written by Herman Hupfield in 1931, performed by actor Dooley Wilson who portrayed piano player Sam, is so wonderful, mere words fail to justify how much love I have for that song. There's a misconception about a certain saying from this film. People are always quoting "Play it again, Sam" but in the film that line is never uttered once. The lines that are actually spoken are close with "Play it for me, Sam" or "Play it once more" but not one time does someone actually say, "Play it again, Sam."
The chemistry between Rick and Ilsa (portrayed by Ingrid Bergman) is indescribable in its perfection. Ironically, offscreen Humphrey Bogart's wife at the time was extremely jealous and possessive to the point of threatening her husband if he got too close to his costar Ingrid Bergman. So the restrained cynical calmed down demeanor of Rick's affections that we get actually are better thanks to the threats Bogart's crazy wife delivered!
That ending....that fantastic finale at the airfield. Once more, mere words fail to describe how great it really is. I don't even want to discuss it in detail because I don't want to ruin it for anyone who's actually not seen it or given it it's much-deserved respect. Get on that right away, poor saps.
Casablanca is a genuine instant classic, a timeless endeavor that is unmatched, and my favorite film of all time!

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