Casablanca on Blu-ray
Up until yesterday, I had only seen Casablanca one time. Which I think is reasonable number of times to watch it. There are very few movies I enjoy watching multiple times and heretofore none of them were Humphrey Bogart films. And I’m going to confess something that may make you think a bit less of me–I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about when it came to Casablanca. There, I said it. In fact, when I checked the film out from my local library, I also grabbed Citizen Kane. I didn’t understand that movie’s hype either. So, when Warner Bros. sent me the Blu-ray to review, I was both glad for the excuse to force myself to watch the film again, and dreading it a bit. I’m proud to say, I’m starting to understand why it’s such a classic.
I feel like reviewing the plot seems redundant. If you haven’t seen Casablanca yet, you really should. If you have, you can skip this paragraph. Basically, an exiled American named Rick (Humphrey Bogart) runs a saloon in Casablanca during the tumultuous times of the Third Reich. Casablanca has become an oasis of sorts, a place where Europeans are fleeing to to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, while waiting for visas to travel to America. It’s here at Rick’s saloon that he has a chance encounter with an old flame, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) who, after a whirlwind romance, disappeared. And it seems she’s married. Rick has stolen visa’s which he could give to Ilsa and her husband (her husband is some sort of leader in the resistance against the Nazi’s), but he doesn’t really feel like it after Ilsa shat on his heart. And the movie is really that simple.
First off, let me say that Casablanca looks amazing in high-definition. The picture is beautiful and really highlights Arthur Edeson’s cinematography. It’s not often I feel strongly about the cinematography in black and white films (Sven Nykvist’s films are the notable exception), but this was gorgeous. I could have looked at Ingrid Bergman this way forever. Speaking of Bergman, let’s discuss the cast. I have always had a difficult time with the acting style of early Hollywood, it’s always so dramatic. Women are always on the verge of a crying fit, or they’re nearly bursting with joy. And of the men is required stoicism, or anger. I still feel this way after watching Casablanca a second time, but I actually kind of dug it this time around. I was super into Rick and Ilsa’s romance and feel they should be praised for their performances. Particularly Bogart, I thought. He really nailed his lines.
Speaking of lines, how is it possible that so many lines from the film are quotable, and quoted often? There’s a brief extra feature on the Blu-ray where Lauren Bacall discusses how so much of the script’s dialogue has entered into every day jargon. And it’s true. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” “We’ll always have Paris.” All from Casablanca.
I can no longer deny I don’t understand the appeal of this film. It’s a classic, and it’s timeless. I now count myself as a big fan.
The Blu-ray’s bonus content includes:
– Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Have Never Heard Of
– Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic
– Introduction by Lauren Bacall
– 2 separate commentaries: Roger Ebert and Film Historian Rudy Behlmer
– Warner Night at the Movies
– Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart
– You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca
– As Time Goes By: The Children Remember
– Deleted Scenes
– Audio Scoring Stage Sessions
– 11/19/47 Vox Pop Radio Broadcast
– Theatrical Trailers
Warner Brothers provided BFR with a free Blu-ray for this review.