Let me be frank: I love Casablanca, the film directed by Michael Curtiz and released in 1942 starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid. I’ve seen it multiple times, and each time the ending makes me cry and I find all its plot twists still exciting. Everything is amazing: its fervent anti-Nazism, the perfectly constructed sets in the Warner Bros. Studios, the memorable soundtrack, the acting, the black and white cinematography… everything! So be aware that my review is based on my enthusiastic opinion of the movie.
Let’s start from an introduction to the plot. Casablanca is part of unoccupied France and, although it’s ruled by the Vichy government, it’s the destination of many who want to flee the seemingly unstoppable Nazis. Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is an American who runs one of the busiest bars in town employing people of different nationalities including the talented African-American pianist Sam (Dooley Williams). Rick is a man without ideals who only cares for himself, as we understand from his conversations with Louis Renault (Claude Rains), the corrupt French soldier who rules the city. One night Rick comes into possession of two precious passes (stolen from an Italian called Ugarte and played by Slovak actor Peter Lorre: in 1940s’ Hollywood they didn’t know much about Italy). The passes could allow anyone to get to Lisbon and from there to reach safe-heaven in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Czechoslovak refugee Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) arrive right at Rick’s in need of these passes. Will they get them? And what to do with Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), the Third Reich representative who keeps Renault on a leash like a puppy?
I don’t want to write anything else about the plot. If you haven’t seen the movie, be aware that the plot is anything but trivial and it’s interesting from beginning to end. Despite being a film made almost 80 years ago, it is still incredibly fresh and it’s worth watching without a shadow of a doubt. As I wrote in the beginning, everything works beautifully, including the story. I also find amusing how us Italians are treated: servants who go completely unnoticed (the military at the airport waiting for Strasser), mafia-related (Ferrari is the head of the underworld of Casablanca), and criminals (Ugarte). That’s it, thank you! On the other hand, in 1942 Italy was ruled by a fascist dictator, so it seems to me that we couldn’t expect to be treated well overseas! In fact, this is a very political film, which is not surprising given that it was produced by Warner who at the time was openly anti-Nazi. The film was given the green light two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor!
And coming back to the film itself, how many unforgettable dialogues! “Play it, Sam“, “We’ll always have Paris“, “Here’s looking at you, kid“, and “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” not only are spoken in the movie, but have been reused everywhere in homage to Curtiz’s masterpiece. And how many unforgettable scenes! La Marseillaise sung loudly to silence the hideous Nazis in the bar (although it must be said that this particular scene was copied from a similar one in the movie The Great Illusion, La Grande Illusion, 1937), the ending in the foggy airport, As Time Goes By sung by Sam a few times, the flashback in Paris with Rick and Ilsa…
Ingrid Bergman is really beautiful in this film, and she has great chemistry with Humphrey Bogart. Apparently, and surprisingly, none of the main actors involved in the film believed particularly in the project… But it is well-known that anecdotes about films dating back to the first half of last century are not particularly reliable! Casablanca is a beautiful black and white film shot with spectacular sets, legendary actors and actresses, and its messages on freedom and on the need to fight fascism are still powerful and, unfortunately, very relevant today. Ciao!