“Here’s Looking at You, Boy,” “We’ll Always Have Paris,” “Of All the Gin Joints in All the Cities in the World, She Walks Into Mine,” “Rounding the Usual Suspects,” “Play It Again, Sam,” “I Think It’s It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Even if you’ve never seen or heard of the 1942 film “Casablanca,” there’s a very good chance you’ll recognize the quotes listed above. “Casablanca” has woven its way into society in a way that few movies can and has become a way for us to talk to each other; Shorthand for heroic sacrifice and the triumph of idealism over cynicism.
Through the Salt Lake Film Society, there will be an opportunity to see “Casablanca” on the big screen at the Broadway Theater in downtown Salt Lake City. For anyone with a passing interest in movies, this is a “run, don’t walk” situation. “Casablanca” is the crown jewel of cinema. Boasting one of the greatest screenplays ever written, it’s a work of rock-solid craftsmanship – bright, witty and vibrant.
What is ‘Casablanca’?
Like a piece of modern mythology, the plot of “Casablanca” is simple, but it is one in which universal human emotions and experiences can be projected.
It is set during World War II, and the Nazis have arrived in the Vichy France-controlled city of Casablanca. The only way to get out of Casablanca and travel to freedom is with letters of transit. The two letters of transit end up at Rick’s Cafe, hiding after their thief is killed by the police. The gin joint is run by cynical American expat Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) who “sticks his neck out for nobody.”
Complications arise in Rick’s isolationist views when old flame Ilsa Lund, played by the brilliant Ingrid Bergman, arrives with her husband, resistance fighter Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), seeking safe passage from Casablanca. Blaine must then decide whether to use the letters of transit for his own ends, or to help the woman he still loves stay with her husband.
A refugee story made by refugees
Aside from the emotional power of its story, one of the true joys of “Casablanca” is the world it creates.
Woven into the story of Blaine, Lund, and Laszlo are others who seek sanctuary in Rick’s cafe—waiters, musicians, croupiers, a Bulgarian newlywed couple, a pickpocket, women selling their jewelry, “the owner of the second largest banking house in Amsterdam,” and an elderly Hungarian couple. learning english.
Scenes hum with the bustle and live-in quality of Rick’s cafe, and conversation and Sam’s piano notes are ever-present. It’s immersive. Throughout the 102 minute runtime, one feels like they are sitting at a cafe table. Even a two-line character is given a sense of his own singular dream and life lived while the camera is rolling.
Many of the actors were themselves refugees from Europe, of Jewish descent and not, and were able to bring their own experiences of fleeing the Nazis to the screen. The intensity of the tears and emotion during the “La Marseillaise” scene feels real — there’s no flicker of performance. What must it have been like for someone who had just left their home in France to act on that moment?
Why are we still watching ‘Casablanca’?
Why are we still watching “Casablanca” 80 years later? Simply put, it’s a good movie. “Casablanca” was able to tap into universal human emotions and emotions that have not changed in decades. The nobility, courage and honor displayed by the characters have not diminished with time.
When one sees Rick’s Cafe and the larger-than-life faces of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman on the big screen, they can see their bravery and sense of duty, and see their heroism in action for themselves. We are able to learn from their example. Exiting the theater, it is clear that the three people’s problems are more than a mountain of beans in this world.
Showtimes and tickets are available on the Salt Lake Film Society website.