First Viewing:Casablanca

For someone who loves movies, it’s incredible that I’ve gone this long without seeing Casablanca. It’s one of those movies everyone’s heard about even if they’ve never seen it. People can quote snatches of dialogue from it (of all the gin joints…), know that it ends with two characters leaving on a plane and that almost all the action takes place at Rick’s Cafe while “As Time Goes By” plays in the background. Casablanca may have been the worlds first meme.

Rick Blaine as played by Humphrey Bogart could quite possibly be the coolest character in cinema. He’s entirely in control of himself and his bar. When he doesn’t want to talk to an old flame he orders his bartender to see that she’s taken home. He lets a desperate couple win at roulette, not because he likes them but because he doesn’t want to have a guilty conscience. Everything that Rick does in the movie he does with a sour look on his face. He may have a reputation as the only good man in Casablanca, but he sure as hell isn’t proud of it.

The film revolves around a dilemma. Early on, Rick comes into possession of two letters of transit that grant passage to America, no questions asked. It appears that he can finally leave Casablanca, if he so wishes. Enter Victor Lazlo and Ilsa, the woman he fell in love with in Paris but who abandoned him when he fled from the Germans. Victor is a leader of the Resistance, and he is also Ilsa’s husband. He needs to leave the country or the Germans will kill him. Naturally, he wants Ilsa to flee with him and he wants Rick’s letters of transit to make it possible. The jilted lover gets to decide the fate of the triangle. Which of the two characters get to leave, and who has to stay in Casablanca?

The story is less important than the interactions of the characters. Rick’s dilemma is always in the background of the film and guides the narrative, but the meat of movie just consists of cool characters talking to one another. Casablanca is essentially the first Tarantino movie, fifty years before the first Tarantino movie came out. The dialogue between characters is snappy, clever, and incredibly quotable. The lines that people can quote off the top of their head doesn’t even begin to cover the punchy exchanges that occur in the film. In my opinion, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” is probably the weakest line of the film (and repeated far too many times). Here’s a sample of some of the better and less well-known exchanges:

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.

Rick: And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.
Captain Renault: That is my *least* vulnerable spot.

Rick: Sam, Ferrari wants you to work for him at the Blue Palace.
Sam: Oh, I like it fine here.
Rick: He’ll double what I pay you.
Sam: Yeah, but I ain’t got time to spend the money I make here.
Rick: (to Ferrari) Sorry.

The best part about the movie is that every scene is filled with dialogue like this. It’s no wonder some refer to it as the best script in the world.

A funny thing happened while I watched Casablanca. I thought I knew the ending. But to my surprise, I had it completely wrong. It was a nice feeling, because for the first time, I found out how Casablanca really ends.

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One Response to First Viewing:Casablanca

  1. Julia Turnbull says:

    Wow, you make me want to see this movie!

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