November 12, 2004

Speaking of...

....Casablanca, I saw it tonight (one of the local public television stations showed it -- on our Inside-the-Beltway cable system, we seem to have something like 11 different PBS affiliates). First, of course, there's the fairly obvious observation: What a great film. Still, of Bogart movies, The Maltese Falcon will always seem the best, the most quientessentially American, with Bogart's dispassionate Sam Spade as the epitome of existential cool. Maybe it's the better literary material (the film reads just like the novel -- I think all John Huston left out was Spade searching Brigid O'Shaughnessy's apartment, Spade delivering his existential parable, and Spade strip searching Brigid to find out what happened to the missing $1,000 bill that was to pay for the Falcon...).

Two things mar Casablanca for me. The first is fairly obvious: Sam is treated as Rick's inferior; there's no indication that Rick, Ilsa, or even freedom fighter Victor Lazlo regard him as being anything other than an inferior, "the boy with the piano."


Okay, so maybe Sam wasn't a fighter (although he seemed to have some kind of history with Rick), but even if he didn't go off with Rick and Louie at the end of the film, he at least could have been the one who ended up running the cafe...

The other thing that bugs me -- by the time we get to the scene with Ingrid Bergman visiting Rick at night the second time, when she threatens to shoot him for the letters of transit -- by that time, it seems, Rick has already gone over to the idealist side. He's allowed the Marseilles to be played, which results in his business being shut down; he's interceded on behalf of the Bulgarian couple, potentially alienating the cynical and corrupt Captain Renault ... for him to suddenly go back to saying, "I'm not fighting for anything anymore, except myself," seems to strike a false note, and the bit with the gun -- "Shoot me. You'd be doing both of us a favor" seems a little melodramatic for a man who meets a payroll. Yes, he has no intention of actually being shot, but if he's playing the whole scene just to get Paris back, as it were, it's an awfully cruel way to go about it, and an awfully high price to exact...


Posted by Ideofact at November 12, 2004 12:39 AM