Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Playback Tuesday: Classics

Edit: This post was meant for Tuesday, but was originally posted Wednesday, Dec. 30th...sorry for the delay, but Casablanca is a hefty read.

I must admit a crucial film failing...I have never seen Casablanca. I know of it. As a teen, I've even seen the last scene of the film, which I supposed was about some guy who was going to leave the woman he loved at an airport to fight a war or something.

I was wrong, of course, but I didn't find that out until today when I finished reading the screenplay. The guy turned out to be Rick, a feigned opportunist who turns out to be a sentimentalist and ends up helping more than one couple escape Nazi-occupied Casablanca. The screenplay itself was rather brilliant. Within the first five pages I understood that Casablanca is a corrupt, chaotic environment where survival means shady dealings with colorful characters, and escape means bargaining with unforgiving, yet morally wavering officials and scam artists. Casablanca is also a hostile environment where the locals (and visitors who often turn into locals) go to a night club called Rick's to drown their sorrows in alcohol, music, and gambling. Having seen the ending already, I began (now as an adult) to piece together the suspenseful puzzle, ultimately understanding that my conceptions of what the movie was about were those of a simpleton. Casablanca wasn't a love story about a guy leaving a girl at an airport. Rather, it is a tale about the triumph of right over wrong, responsibility over recklessness, and the importance of humanitarian causes over individual gain. Written in 1942, during the heated battles of World War II, I can only imagine the impact such a script made in Hollywood. Perhaps the script and it's eventual impact on American cinema, and it's broader impact on an America struggling to figure out its role in world affairs, proves once again that the pen (if used well) can be mightier than the sword (or at least put a cause behind using it).

Screenplay by: Julius Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch

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