Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Still the greatest, as time goes by...

So, I went to see "Casablanca" tonight at Regal Cinemas West Town, a special Turner Classic Movies-sponsored showing for the film's 70th anniversary.

With one exception, which I'll get to in a minute, it was a great time.

This is a perfect film, a true testament to the studio system, the best American film ever made, with all due respect to the American Film Institute and "Citizen Kane." There is not one wasted word, not one miscast actor, not one flawed scene.

And the crazy part is the whole darn thing was an accident.

"Casablanca" was just another film rolling through the Warner Bros. factory in 1942. The script arrived daily, in pieces, and didn't have an ending. Director Michael Curtiz was great with the cast and terrible with the crew. Ingrid Bergman didn't think much of the film itself.

But a classic it became and, of course, it found an ending, a perfect one, courtesy of the Epstein brothers. Oh, and did you catch that the whole thing is an allegory for American involvement in World War II?

And what a cast -- Bogie, Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Dooley Wilson, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall. And that song, that haunting, beautiful song, immortalized by Wilson, you must remember this.

All those money quotes:

"Here's looking at you, kid," and "I'm shocked -- shocked -- to find that gambling is going on here" and NOT "Play it again, Sam." Listen carefully. It's never said.

TCM host Robert Osborne filmed an introduction, telling us the movie was shot for about $900,000. He talked about the script problems and repeated the story (which may indeed be apocryphal) that Ronald Reagan was almost cast as Rick Blaine.

This is the movie that made Bogart a motion picture star. He was tough and he was vulnerable and, yes, he could play the romantic leading man and play one quite well.

Our only unpleasantness for the evening was, again, a disappointing experience with digital projection. Yes, the print looked pristine. But, it kept getting interrupted with occasional pauses and a bizarre flashing message about someone not being authorized to view the film. At least it wasn't as bad as the time I tried to see the documentary "Senna" at Downtown West and the subtitles -- much of the film is in Portuguese -- were cut off.

Say what you will, none of this would have ever happened with a 35mm print.

But, even those annoyances couldn't ruin classic Hollywood's cinematic triumph, a film for the ages, still the greatest of them all, as time goes by.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great movie! And the actor Carl Deloro was also in the movie, Casablanca, he was "Arab Guest with Fez" (uncredited). It was the high point of his career!

6:18 AM  

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