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28. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Casablanca

September 11, 2018

Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre
Runtime: 102 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1942

 

★★★★★

 

Alongside Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind, Casablanca is one of the quintessential American films not just because of its bounds to the culture, but because of its continued relation to the fundamentals of an idealised way of life.

 

Its themes of love, homeland, loyalty and selfless sacrifice run deep in the veins of its characters and storyline, offering up a continued guiding light to the cinematic equivalent of heaven. Its characters, while few in number, are unbelievably human in action and presentation. Their emotional instincts are what rule them and everyone is played perfectly enough to convey this.

 

Bogart is a heartbreaker in a change from the usual hardboiled role, Bergman dazzles with picturesque beauty and mercy opposite an incredibly strong headed performance from Henreid. Tropes are fulfilled but for the sake of broad significance.

 

Michael Curtiz is more in tandem with Ernst Lubitch than anyone else; an elegant and highly malleable director capable of wielding a style and beauty to his films through efficient visual storytelling, all whilst maintaining the glamour and poise demanded of its core players with a classic Hollywood sensibility.

 

Beyond Casablanca’s beautifully tight and poetically rhythmic screenplay lies the married genius of two (three) great minds at work; the political backdrop of turmoil and desperation of Koch’s input works in harmony with the Epstein’s highly relatable tale of lost love and forfeit. Its sets and general aesthetic are beautifully lit and composed through memorably shot frames that epitomise its figures and ingrain them within the minds of the audience.

 

Combined with its time of release, the simplicity of its universally recognisable storytelling and the restraints placed upon it by the censors, Casablanca is a perfect product of the time and it’s a miracle that its pieces still fit together as well as they do.

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