Friday, March 4, 2005

A classic worthy of the name

I just watched _Casablanca_ for the first time. The hype was all deserved. I love this movie. It reminded me a lot of _The Plague_, the book. It had the same tense, claustrophobic, misanthropic edge to it, but was not a tenth as languid and lugubrious as the (1991/2/3?) film adaptation.

_Casablanca_’s dialogue was razor sharp. Often with a single quip, it struck deep cords about hypocrisy, corruption and the price of love and virtue in dire straits. Just as often it was downright hilarious. The directing and pacing were lean and clean. The cinematography could be melodramatic at times, but always appropriately so. The acting was excellent. Unlike today, when movie stars are flaunted like exploding white giants swallowing every smaller light around them, every actor in _Casablanca_ shone like a true star, neither too bright nor too ordinary in the whole dramatic cosmos. Further, since movies, in 1944, when the film was released, had not yet overpowered the theater in the popular eye as they have today, faces and hands actually spoke even onscreen. Today, we're often subjected to talking heads with "a message." But in _Casablanca_, we can enjoy watching mythic figures speak deep truths, and even deeper questions, with their fingers, eyes, mouths, and hands.

To top it all, the dozens of classic lines were a delight: "Here's looking at you, kid." -- "I know the problems of two small people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy, mixed-up world, but..." – “As leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca, I'm a respected and influential man.” – “I never make plans that far ahead.” – “Is that cannon fire, or is it my heart pounding?” – “It would take a miracle to get you out of Casablanca, and the Germans have outlawed miracles.” – and the like. Interestingly, as I’m sure you movie buffs know, the ultra-famous “Play it again, Sam” never actually occurs in the film.

I knew dimly that it was a romance of some sort, but, call me a dunce -- "Dunce!" -- I had no idea _Casablanca_ was such an interesting historical thriller. The Nazis are flaunting themselves like exploding white giants, swallowing every smaller light around them, while the small ragtag ensemble of refugees fights for their own foothold on dignity and happiness.

I repeat: I love this film. I’m even tempted to watch it again right now (but only tempted, mind you :suggestive winking emoticon:). Maybe my friends are right and I am just a fogey in a Gen-XYZer's body. Strong words for a young man to hear. My answer? Suits me fine, ya young whippersnappers, pass the sabots.

By the way, a bonus of watching _Casablanca_ in Taiwan is to see the rare edition *not* starring Humphrey Bogart. No, no, seriously. My copy of the DVD, nabbed for a mere $US3, made and typed up for Asia, clearly lists SHUMPHREY BOGART starring alongside INGRID BERGMAN. Maybe I can work my cinema connections (pending) to get a copy released starring Humphrey Bougis. Here's blogging to you, kid.

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