Casablanca ★★★★½

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

The word propaganda typically has a bad connotation, but the word itself is entirely neutral. Whether the propaganda is good or bad depends on your personal beliefs, and unless you’re a Nazi (in which case fuck off), Casablanca is good propaganda. 

The thing about Rick is that he isn’t a very sympathetic character for a modern audience. His “neutrality” was frustrating at best. But rick isn’t just a singular character - he was meant to represent the whole of American sentiment in the war effort. When Casablanca was released in 1942, 3 years into the war, America had just begun aiding the Allied Forces. The public at this point was still largely isolationist - as Rick expresses time and time again “I stick my neck out for nobody. The problems of this world are not in my department. I’m a saloon keeper.“ And other than his unwillingness to part with the letters at first, his neutrality can almost be seen as an asset - if he’s neutral, the Cafe American can remain a place where refugees can make deals for their exit visas, because nobody’s suspecting Rick, just minding his business. But as we know, there is no neutrality in the face of oppression. If audiences could see themselves in Rick, in his shift from thinly veiled neutrality (for as it’s said in the dialogue, he has helped twice in anti-fascist efforts before) to actively helping the side of the oppressed, then perhaps they could get behind America abandoning its stance of isolationismz

Rick’s turning point, and what I see as the lynchpin of the film, comes during the scene of the dueling anthems. This is the point at which Rick makes his decision to help the oppressed, after we had just seen him refuse to give Lazlo the letters. With a simple nod of his head, the band begins, and the French national anthem, sung by real French refugees, quickly overwhelms the German anthem. It is a musical triumph of the oppressed over the opressor, and it is with one American’s assistance that that is able to happen. 

Casablanca is about overcoming your own wants and needs to stand up for what’s right - a simple and universal concept, executed beautifully.

Damn - I also wanted to talk about Casablanca and Cafe American as a liminal space but that would make this review excruciatingly long. Maybe next time I watch 🤷🏻‍♀️

 Scavenger hunt 66 prompt 14: a movie released during WWII 

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