Re-released in cinemas to celebrate its 70th birthday, Casablanca still manages to twist the dials in such a way that excites and exhilarates.
It now goes without saying that Michael Curtiz’s lusty 1942 melodrama is not The Greatest Film Ever Made, but it’s certainly very, very high in the ranks of glossy romantic entertainment from Hollywood’s golden era.
Re-released in cinemas to celebrate its 70th birthday, Casablanca still manages to twist the dials in such a way that excites and exhilarates, to the point that even if you’re internally miming along to the script and playing along to 'When Time Goes By', the climax still has the emotional heft to slay you dead.
Set in and around Rick’s American Bar in the eponymous Moroccan city, it sees Humphrey Bogart as the cream-suited cad who begrudgingly puts his Yankee neck on the line to assist old flame Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) in escaping to neutral Portugal at the height of the World War II.
Two things to note: One, the cinematography by Arthur Edeson makes for a perfect complement to Julius and Philip Epstein’s full-blooded, tick-every-box script. Bergman is photographed in a way which gives her face a gauzy, angelic glow, while Bogie is presented as an unassuming but furtively powerful white knight. These small touches lift the material, which in lesser hands could’ve easily been another a run-of-the-mill, plot-heavy potboiler.
And two, Casablanca is a film which his lifted by is stunning array of supporting players, none more deserving of belated praise than Claude Rains‘ gentleman crook, Captain Renault, whose relationship with Bogart is one of the film’s more fascinating subtextual talking points.
Clearly, this is still a film that audiences will flock to the cinema to see again and again. And even hardened cynics who might be impelled to dismiss it as a collection of button-pushing clichés will most likely get swept up in the all the unabashed romance.
Watching it again, you can’t help but ponder what a modern day update of the film would bring: Squaddies on furlough, bent coppers, a lithe X-Factor winner on tour and a whirlwind of forbidden romance set in the stainless-steel, Jägerbomb-incrusted confines of Lineker’s Bar on the beachfront of Magaluf. We can only dream.
A timeworn Hollywood classic gets another run out.
C’mon! It’s Casablanca!
See you again at age 80, 90, 100, etc…