Monday, May 18, 2009

CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz, 1942, USA) Rick Blaine is a fugitive, lost in the fugue of expiatory purification, an isolated man whose glacial heart still burns for his one true love. He finds himself cast adrift in Casablanca, the last place on earth he expects to find salvation, and he wants only to live life by his own rules. Blaine is a lonely man who tries desperately to forget his past and disregard his morality: he was once ethical, a supporter of the disenfranchised and repressed. Into this web of intrigue stumbles Ilsa Lund and as time goes by he must make a fatal decision to do what is right for her, the greater cause…or himself. Michael Curtiz has directed one of the most memorable films of all time, one of the great romantic tragedies, but it is not without flaws. Though Bogart and Bergman’s smoldering emotional conflict burns onscreen, the premise of the film about stolen transit papers and the unlikely coincidence of Ilsa and her husband, the fugitive patriot Laszlo, threatens to sink the film into absurd melodrama. The local French Captain expertly portrayed by Claude Raines seethes with politically incestuous ethics whose hands are soaked with the blood of innocents yet he reveals a kind heart. Laszlo is rigid and one dimensional, a plot device to create friction between the scorned Rick and Ilsa, and its difficult to see why she loves him so much…and why we should feel empathy for him. These elements implode when examined on their own but together form a cohesive and suspenseful narrative. CASABLANCA is like any other film…only more so. This leads us to a bitterly romantic climax that is swallowed by the fog. (B+)

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