Rating: 3.75 of 5 ★★★¾☆ 

Surprisingly, no, I’d never seen Casablanca before last week. I generally don’t like old movies so I pretty much don’t ever make the time to watch them. The production values are lower, the stories or characters can seem cheesy to a sophisticated audience (yes, that would be me). Plus, I don’t ascribe to the belief that just because a movie is a classic it’s therefore good. Someone once said that the golden age in Hollywood wasn’t really golden, it’s just when we learned to industrialize movie making. I agree, so, I don’t expect that all classic movies will stand the test of time.

But a friend and I were in the middle of a movie swap and Casablanca was the only thing she had left that I hadn’t seen. And, once I admitted that I hadn’t seen it she encouraged me to give it a try. I watched mostly out of obligation to her because she’s a very good friend, but I’m glad I did because it was really good, and does stand the test of time.

The characters are all smart and well developed, very quickly and simply. Even the tertiary characters have personality and voice and you care about what happens to them. The plot was smart and intriguing. Which was sort of brilliant because so often these days there seems to be an idea that a plot has to be revolutionary or convoluted in order to be interesting. This shows that a good plot well told can be enough.

I loved how honest everyone was within their little world. They could hide from the new people that the roulette wheel was rigged, but they were all very open with one another about making sure the cop won. Especially the cop and Rick. I like honesty. And their sort of honor among thieves was well done and enjoyable.

The heroine was a little whiny and wishy washy for me, but Rick I liked and the cop I liked and even Victor was cool about being up front with who he was and forgiving of her for being lonely.

It seems simple, compared to the extravagance of locations and sets and special effects we have today, but everything was used so effectively to serve the story it still stands as an example of how films can be well done.


February 14, 2009 | Review , , | this post contains affiliate links

2 responses to “Casablanca

  1. Lori

    Ok, a couple things. Classic does, by definition, mean good. Classic: of acknowledged excellence. I think what you mean here is that not all old movies are classics. This is a pet peeve for me.

    And, I think by not watching older films, you miss out on the innovations that happened back then. Yes, we all know the end of Citizen Kane and that does take away some of its greatness but that doesn’t diminish that it was the first movie of it’s time to have a story like that. Or the cinematography and set design and the amount of creative control of Orson Welles was given (I’ve looked this up before, can you tell). As an audience of the thousands (because let’s face it, we were too young for most of the 90’s to see the few movies that actually made a difference) we take for granted the styles and lessons that our generation of movie makers learned from. Yes, they all have their individual styles but just like music (and really every form of art) it’s is all influenced by what came before.

    But I think what you said about character development really seals why ‘classic’ movies are classics. Without all the bells and whistles of today, they had to be good. You had to care about them because they lack the extravagance that all today’s movies are expected to have.

    On this we agree, all classic movies don’t stand the test of time. And I attribute that to the technological nature of movie making. With painting, you’re always going to be using some form of paint, canvas and brush. Movies have so many areas to be advanced; pictures, sound, effects, even (God forgive us) 3D, that by nature they are going to get more complicated. Unfortunately, not only do these advancements make it easier to make films (which can lead to a dilution of quality) but it also makes us expect the flash at the expense of the fire.

    • aj

      excellent comments!

      Yes, not all old movies are classics. Though, Classic can also mean “historically memorable” and I think people assume if it’s historically memorable it’s good – which is not always the case. If something is truly a classic, though, it should stand the test of time despite innovations in filmmaking and I think Casablanca does. I totally agree on your point that the reason classic movies stand the test of time is because the characters and progression of the story are so good – because they had to be because they didn’t have much else to work with. very insightful.

      and yes, I agree that it’s good to watch old films – the ones worth watching – because there is a lot to be learned from their ingenuity and the things they did that were revolutionary at the time. But I think there’s also room to temper that with enjoyment. I am not actually a student of film but stories so Citizen Kane doesn’t do for me what Casablanca does. I was just bored the whole time, however influential it was to filmmaking. I don’t just need a movie to be well made, I need to personally be engaged by the story and the characters or I don’t care. which, I think, is part of why I rarely enjoy old movies, even the classics. I don’t like Sound of Music (heresy, I know) but that one I’d never argue isn’t a classic.

      I’m curious what movies in the 90s you think actually made a difference – because I feel like I saw them, whatever they were. I mean, I saw Titanic like 6 times 😉

      Unfortunately, not only do these advancements make it easier to make films (which can lead to a dilution of quality) but it also makes us expect the flash at the expense of the fire.
      That’s brilliant. I think what we all want is a flashy fire 😉