As much as I love movies in general, and old movies in particular, you’d think I would have seen it before.
For some reason, I’ve never seen Casablanca. For all the times I’ve seen the ending or some other key scene, I’ve never seen the whole thing.
Well, finally, someone (Thanks Beano!) dragged me down to see it.
San Jose recently opened a brilliantly refurbished theater, the California Theatre. This is a building in the middle of San Jose’s first street club district (SOFA, they used to call it). It was a total rat-bag, once was a porn palace, and I can remember nights sitting in front of it too drunk to walk after seeing my friends bands play in the local clubs. There was talk of demolishing it not long ago, but fortunately, this stunning building has been re-born. San Jose’s opera and symphony are playing there, and now, I want to go see opera and symphony.
So this weekend, they were playing a beautifully restored copy of Casablanca, and several of us (Me, my beloved Andie, Beano, and a number of other vaguely orkut-related friends) got talked into going out on a cold monday night to see the whole deal, including an era news-reel, cartoon, and live music played on a restored Wurlitzer. And honestly, how can you not love a Wurlitzer? Or at least, to say Wurlitzer.
So how do you evaluate a movie that is so omnipresent in pop culture and movie lore? A movie where every bit of dialog sounds familiar? A movie you’ve seen aped and spoofed and tributed; every montage has part of it.
Watching a few minutes in, I thought, god, this dialog is nothing but cliches. And then it dawned on me, this is where the cliches came from.
I talked to a friend, a major film buff. She first marveled that I’d never seen this film, then said “I’m not a big fan of Casablanca.” I’ll have to figure out what she means. Because I honestly can’t tell if it’s good or not. The place, the theater I was in; the feeling of cultural significance this film has. The people I was sitting with; it all added up to a highly, highly pleasurable experience. And how can you not like Bogart? How can you not like the dialog in this film? Lines like:
- “You despise me, don’t you?”
“If I gave you any thought I probably would.”
“Where were you last night?”
“That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.”
“Will I see you tonight?”
“I never make plans that far ahead.”
“How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Some day they may be scarce.”
“What is your nationality?”
“I’m a drunkard.”
“That makes Rick a citizen of the world.”
And a line that speaks to me personally in profound ways:
“I wish I didn’t love you so much.”
I mean — that’s dialog. That’s the shit. That’s the stuff I’d like to be able to write someday when I write screen-plays (and dammit, I will, I got ‘em in me).
So here’s what I like — the cast, the dialog, the beautiful cinematography. On a big screen with a great print, this movie is beautiful. Bogart’s acting is hard to judge; he’s so Bogart. But I liked the performance. I loved the costumes. I loved the damned hats. This movie made me want to wear a 1940′s suit, a cool hat, and it made me want to smoke. Which I don’t and never did do, but you know, it sounded pretty cool right that minute.
What didn’t I like? The plot was a little muddled, and there’s a big plot hole or two, but it didn’t really bother me much. But for some reason, no matter how pretty she is, I have trouble warming up to Ingrid Bergman in this part. I just kept thinking Hollywood when I looked at her, Actress.
Ok I will admit it. That’s not the main thing I was thinking. I was thinking, I want to fuck her mouth, I want to hold her head in my hands and force my cock between her lips and go until my come dribbles down her lips. But I was also thinking that about the woman sitting next to me.
Now I’ve distracted myself.
In any case, I loved the film, if only for it’s pop-culture significance. But now I need to go see more old movies in the theater.
Oh, and there’s something else I need to do. But that’s a non-movie entry.