Tuesday, February 9, 2010
A Written Review: Casablanca
The film Casablanca is actually my second favorite movie all time. If there is one film every film major must see before they are to be taken even remotely seriously, it’s this one. Whether it’s the fantastic acting from both Bogart and Bergman, the beautiful cinematography, the stunning lighting, dead on direction, or the indescribably good writing this film is about as close to perfect as a film can get (besides my favorite film of all time Sunset Blvd. of course).
Firstly, while I mentioned Bogart and Bergman whom this film belongs to something must be said about the supporting cast of this film. Every single cast member, no matter how small a role they might have played, played their respective characters to perfection. From Claude Rains’ humors turn as Captain Renault (Who steals almost every scene he’s in) or Dooley Wilson’s amazingly understated role as Sam the entire ensemble cast of this movie deserves respect that most lead actors in modern cinema do not. However, while the ensemble is fantastic the film does belong to Bergman and Bogart. Both play the emotional highs and lows of this film without crossing the line into melodrama. I’ve never seen a woman look as beautiful as Ingrid Bergman did in this film and never have yet to see an actor be able to play understated charisma like Bogart.
Next, the cinematography in this film was beyond belief. The director of photography was able to do everything from the extreme close-ups of Bergman and Bogart to the sweeping city and landscape shots of Casablanca itself. Also, the film pulls of the transition from the dry desert of Africa to the bustling cityscape of Paris, France so easily that until later viewings I never even realized what an accomplishment this was (especially considering the time period this film was made).
Also, aside from the cinematography itself the lighting for this movie blew me away. The style was constantly changing from an almost German Expressionistic look during Rick’s darker, sulkier moments to an almost classic American style piece at the more lighthearted moments. Of course, you can’t talk about the lighting without speaking about what was done to make Bergman look almost angelic in all her scenes. The soft lighting that always surrounded her even during long shots with other male characters amazed me. I would not have been surprised if a halo suddenly appeared over Ingrid’s head at any point during this film.
The direction of Casablanca is some of the best I’ve ever seen. The entire film flows together so perfectly watching it reminds me of looking at an amazing painting for hours. This comes, of course, from a good director who knows how to pick his crew and actors and put those people where they belong. There isn’t a single aspect of this film I can say that could have been improved and this goes to show what an amazing director Michael Curtiz was.
Finally, the script, penned by Julius and Philip Epstein, is one of the best in film history. Both of these masters of the craft were able to take what many would consider to be a brooding story and naturally inject comedy and real humanity throughout the entire film. Some of the best writing is given to the character of Captain Renault. I have yet to not laugh when the character says the line “I am shocked, shocked, to find out that there is gambling going on in this establishment!” and then is handed his gambling winnings by a servant whom he quickly thanks and then continues to close down Rick’s. This is just one of the many scenes of humor sprinkled expertly throughout the film. This isn’t even mentioning the amazing lines such as “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” and, of course, “Here’s looking at you kid” (which was actually adlibbed by Bogart so it doesn’t actually count as writing). Also, the intense scenes between Bogart and Bergman are literally tear inducing each time I see them.
All-in-all, Casablanca is simply one of the best examples of film out there. Every aspect of this film is as close to perfect as possible. Whether it’s the acting, cinematography, lighting, direction, or lighting this film nails all aspects of production. It’s so hard to talk about such an amazing film in such a short length of time. However, if there’s one thing I can say about Casablanca it’s this: This film is easily one of the most important films ever made and everyone should see it many, many times! If you haven’t seen it then why are you even reading this!? Go out and watch it! Now!