Casablanca

Michael Curtiz, USA 1942, 102 minutes

Some people feel it’s impossible to really see Casablanca for the first time, because it’s such a popular reference. Inevitably you’ve seen clips, heard As Time Goes By and admired those film stills of Humphrey Bogart looking smart in a white dinner jacket. You may even be familiar with the plot line: American ex-pat runs bar in Casablanca, clearing point for people trying to escape WWII. He runs into his old flame, now reunited with her husband. Much anguished conversation and poignant recollection of the Paris occupation, along with some mild run-ins with the Nazis and corrupt French police. Great ending too. There are really so many reasons why you ought to see this movie, but in the style of back-to-the-land religious weirdos everywhere, I scaled it down to a list of ten:

1. Ingrid Bergman has never looked so beautiful

2. You can never hope to look as good as Bogey in a white dinner jacket, but at least now you can try.

3. As Time Goes By, totally sentimental and sappy, but secretly you will love it and sing it to yourself in the bath for the next month.

4. All the immortal lines in context: “Play it again, Sam” “Of all the gin joints in all the world, you had to walk into mine” “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life!”

5. In this movie, even political asylum seekers get to hang out and drink champagne.

6. The great thing about this era of American filmmaking is that everyone is always ready for scotch and sex. And if you like this, you should see The Big Sleep, and all The Thin Man Movies.

7. If you’ve seen this movie, you can now fake your way through virtually any conversation in which films are being discussed, even if the last thing you saw in the theatre was The Phantom Menace and think M. Night Shyalaman is the greatest working director.

8. You can take someone you’re thinking of dating to this movie and they’ll think you a) have very good taste and, b) must be terribly sophisticated to even know about movies made before 1975.

9. You can inform your family that you’ve been attending enriching cultural events on the evenings you don’t spend in the library.

10. If you hate this movie, feel free to go back to renting Shallow Hal and its ilk unmolested by pretentious hipsters.

Review by Sarah Artt
Written for EUFS Programme Autumn 2002


How can I even attempt to sum up Casablanca, about which everything that can possibly be said has been said, and which is now so much part of our culture that films (such as Woody Allen's Play It Again Sam) are made about it. Its making is now almost as legendary as the film itself - starting off as a formulaic propaganda B-movie off the studio production line, which somehow ended up as a perfect movie reflecting all the magic of Hollywood's golden age.

The Epstein brothers' script now seems like just a series of quotes while Michael Curtiz's direction is such that Casablanca does not seem to be a film containing many propaganda gimmicks (e.g. the fleeing Bulgarian couple) with which Hollywood wished to convince Americans that the events across the Atlantic were a human tragedy that was worthy of American intervention.

Bergman is lovely as the torn heroine, whilst Henreid brings out all the dependency, honour, and dullness of Lazlo, the resistance hero. The supporting cast seem politically incorrect now, but Claude Rains' sex-crazed, suave French police chief is a delight while Sydney Greenstreet's corrupt Moroccan bar owner is most amusing. However this is really Bogart's film. He was cinema's first anti-hero superstar and no-one since has done the whole lone rebel thing with such coolness. Bogart's Rick is so cynical and disillusioned and yet ultimately proves to be completely strong and selfless.

There is not an ounce of flab on this film, with every line effortlessly driving the labyrinthine plot towards its now legendary conclusion. Critics can't find enough nice things to say about this film, and they're all so true.

"As time goes by, Casablanca just gets better *****" - Empire

Review by Alicia Forsyth
Taken from EUFS Programme 1996-97


Some films were just meant to become classics. Why much of the dialogue in Casablanca has fallen into general parlance like only Shakespeare before it is a mystery. What isn't is the appeal of Bogart, hard-bitten an the outside and benevolent on the inside, or Michael Curtiz's exquisite direction.

Set in North Africa during WWII, and concerning the search for American visas by refugees, the plot twists enough to give the characters scene after scene of emotional dilemma. Full of great supporting roles and the kind of detail that only the Coen Brothers still seem to enjoy indulging in, this is, well Casablanca.

Review by Andrew Abbott
Taken from EUFS Programme 1993-94