Greatest non-great film by a director of greatness
(…..runs away with megg)
The notion that some expressions of creativity are superior to others through the label of ART runs parallel to the notion that some people are superior to others.
The rest of your post is automatically bullshit because of that small grain here: Art has nothing to do with people. Art becomes superior to people. When I say people, I say the mass. In order for the mass to seize to exist, we must kill the governments.
That of course will never happen, so until pop culture and Art become one and the same….Art IS the TRUE outcast.
Soar beyond dear meadow
Reach the clouds so bright
Leave a kiss to the sunset
And bring a glorious sight
Casablanca is one of those cinematic phenomenons that you can’t re-create or plan: malleable source material, perfect casting, script, pitch, register, camera, cutting. It’s hard to quantify exactly why its great in the same way that i can’t quantify why a hoagie is delicious. i can isolate the tomato and pesto mayonnaise and bread but they alone don’t make the hoagie, you dig? it’s the mix of elements.
oh, and don’t even try to tell me a hoagie isn’t art.
“I think ultimately that I’m most suspicious of CASABLANCA’s overt propaganda elements, the carefully chosen cast of Europeans and Americans, with the Good Germans carefully included.”
Huh. I don’t have a problem with this, but even if I did, I don’t think this would disqualify the film as a great film. For me, I’m generally uncertain about films that basically tell a good story—even if it’s a great story—with competant, but simple filmmaking (primarily the composition, editing, cinematography). In other words, narrative films in the Hollywood mold. These films tell great stories—and don’t really deal with “big” serious issues directly. And the filmmaking is not spectacular, original or innovative like the type you see from Antonioni, Bresson, Kubrick, or even Hitchcock. There’s something low-key about the artistry in Casablanca.
Even the acting is not great in the same way as Maria Falcolnetti’s performance in Passion of Joan of Arc, Giulietta Masina’s in Nights of Cabiria or Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence. And yet, when I think of Bogart’s performance, why does part of me feel like it belongs in the same category? Why does part of me feel like it doesn’t? Maybe the answer to the second part has to do with the fact that Rick is a stock character in some way, an archetype. Maybe the answer to the first question is that Bogart performance is definitive one for this type of character.
This makes me think of something about the entire film—namely that feels like the apotheosis of a Hollywood (drama-romance) film. The filmmaking (including the acting) may not be highly distinctive or spectacular, but it does feel perfect.
RALCH: I appreciate your point, but what i think you are missing, or conveniently ignoring in an attempt to neutralise the field, is that pop culture, at least now, is defined by the ‘trivialisation of issues’, whereas higher forms of art are not. The fact that pranksters/fakes sometimes operate under the guise high art does not mean that’s what it is essentially about. They are just fakes, period, and they exist in all walks of life. You don’t need education to understand pop culture, regardless of what some hack media studies academic will tell you, but you cannot understand surrealism, impressionism etc without some knowledge and experience first. Of course deep down everybody knows this, hence the defensiveness. and it’s ulitimately where the problems lie. But remember this, a political reavaluation of the arts in the name of ‘egalitarianiasm’ and ‘equality’ is also the result of inflated egos and wannabe social crusaders. It’s projecting a set of a values, an ideological orientation. and imo, it’s more fundamentally dishonest. Whenever somebody calls me a snob, i just think they are being cowardly, if you must know the truth.
Anyway, all the pseudo-academics in the world cannot change the fact that people that move into the higher arts have a different motivation/mindset than so called ‘pop artists’. If the lines between them have blurred, that is only a result of pop culture’s influence and domination in every artistic and creative sphere, not a reflection of the historical trajectory and meaning of the ‘high arts’.
As for Casablanca, it’s a good old Hollywood film, nothing more. at least not in my opinion anyway.
Sorry, Jazz, I’m going to disagree about the brilliance of the performances and the filmmaking. Bogart, Bergman and Rains deliver work that can stand with anything anybody ever did. Bogart’s scathing self-pity in that big drunk scene alone transcends any and all of the easy stereotypes of a mere stock character. Likewise the brilliance of the cinematography, the play of light and shadow throughout. Technically the film is as good, again, as anything ever done anywhere, at least that I’ve ever seen — beyond reproach.
Performances and direction are fantastic – notice how convincingly the crowded, hopping nightclub is staged and how fluidly the camera moves throughout it. Great use of montage, especially in the Paris flashback. Great use of lighting to create mood and heighten emotion – especially in the noirish Bogart/Bergman scenes.
Great editing, use of shot/reverse shot in conversations; transitions from scene-to-scene keep the story flowing without a hiccup. Even the slower scenes add depth to the story and push it forward.
Great script, dialogue and music.
Bogart is iconic, and you’ve got an amazing supporting cast of European actors coloring the story – Rains, Greenstreet, Veidt, Henreid, Lorre, and of course Bergman.
Story has everything you could want – exoticism, intrigue, drama, music, romance, heroism, pathos, etc. Fantastic ending.
Rick Blaine and Casablanca (“White House”) as a metaphor for America and her foreign policy as World War II erupts. I don’t know if propaganda toward a good cause excuses the fact that it IS propaganda. A VERY contemporary film when it was released. I imagine it must have been really exciting to see in a theater in 1942.
all the pseudo-academics in the world cannot change the fact
Whenever I read the word “pseudo-academics,” I brace myself for a self-certified opinion that can’t withstand a close critical analysis. Joks, yours did not disappoint. Going through your list of favorites, it’s obvious that you like films that are sold as “Important Art.” Not all of us have to be told up front that a film is profound before we can approach it. A few select of us can discern the profundity of a film no matter how it was packaged and sold by the middle men. That is why our favorites lists are so exciting and yours is so predictable. We are the true snobs, Joks- you are a pseudo-snob.
To me, the biggest knock on Casablanca is that it isn’t really innovative (though I don’t think that was ever its intent or purpose). It’s a terrifically executed film for its time, the culmination of Hollywood-style filmmaking with nods to European cinema, but it isn’t any great leap forward or shock to the system.
I appreciate your point, but what i think you are missing, or conveniently ignoring in an attempt to neutralise the field
—The field was neutral to begin with. Maybe it would be too problematic to bring to the table ritual and artistic expressions generally called “folklore”, but consider the many portraits revered painters made of famous or rich people over the centuries. Feel free to find grandiose meaning in them if you like, but their virtue resides mainly on their craftsmanship. Same for Beethoven’s Für Elise.
…is that pop culture, at least now, is defined by the ‘trivialisation of issues’, whereas higher forms of art are not.
—No, pop culture is defined in terms of how widespread it’s in the masses (as in "pop"ular). In practice, trivial manifestations will be more accepted by the masses, but not always, and what is advanced knowledge at one time becomes popular later on. Equally, crafts that begin as trivial sometimes evolve as “high art”. We could argue about which films are art and which are not, but some would still maintain that film is not art to begin with. This is where the defensive arbitrariness of the classification reveals itself.
The fact that pranksters/fakes sometimes operate under the guise high art does not mean that’s what it is essentially about. They are just fakes, period, and they exist in all walks of life.
—By the same token, the reverse is true. Sometimes great artistic sensibilities will shine through popular manifestations of art.
You don’t need education to understand pop culture, regardless of what some hack media studies academic will tell you, but you cannot understand surrealism, impressionism etc without some knowledge and experience first.
—The more educated one is, the more one understands anything, including art movements, but that doesn’t mean that people could not appreciate impressionist and surrealist works on their own, especially as these movements come about as a reaction to traditional, academic ways of understanding art.
But remember this, a political reavaluation of the arts in the name of ‘egalitarianiasm’ and ‘equality’ is also the result of inflated egos and wannabe social crusaders. It’s projecting a set of a values, an ideological orientation. and imo, it’s more fundamentally dishonest.
—Art is not natural. It is a human development and as such can be redefined or re-categorized according to human values. I propose something and tell you why. You’re basically telling me I’m being dishonest for elaborating or organizing thoughts on the matter and going against a set of rules supposedly set in stone, but rules which, when summoned, have no other face than “they are long established and everyone knows them”.
Whenever somebody calls me a snob, i just think they are being cowardly, if you must know the truth.
—I have no intention and see no point in calling you a snob, but your argument offers me nothing except a very fragile, elusive and defensive counterattack.
If the lines between them have blurred, that is only a result of pop culture’s influence and domination in every artistic and creative sphere, not a reflection of the historical trajectory and meaning of the ‘high arts’.
—Maybe to a point, but I also take a risk and propose that the massive scale of shared popular culture, together with its massive hunger to feed on anything that keeps it growing (including expressions of the fine arts), has also served to break much of the differentiation myth (the intentions behind it).
As for Casablanca, it’s a good old Hollywood film, nothing more. at least not in my opinion anyway.
—Back to topic. Casablanca is one of the finer expressions of the romantic sensibility I’ve seen on film, as much for the love expressed between Bogart and Bergman, as for the self-inflicted pain of its protagonists in the name of idealism. The fact that the screenplay sets it all in a microcosmic “real world” scenario makes it all the more compelling and romantic. Great character development, too.
Actually, I don’t think we disagree too much. (If you re-read my prior post, I think you’ll see that.) When I think of great filmmaking or acting, examples from Casablanca are not the first that come to mind—not by a long-shot. Bogart is good, maybe even great in this, but I still feel “greatness” is different from some of performances I mentioned above (e.g. Gena Rowlands, Maria Falconetti, etc.). I think the greatness stems from Bogar’s persona and charisma—his star power, rather than talent. Consider that this might not be Bogart’s best performance—which may be his performance in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre or In a Lonely Place; or maybe even in The African Queen. Having said that, I think his performance in Casablanca is very different type of performance from the ones I just mentioned—more similar to his roles as in To Have and Have Not or most of the detectives he played. What is the difference? I’m not sure, but the Casablanca one has more to do with delivery of the lines and a certain presence and style—similar in the way that Cary Grant’s greatness. The performances in “Sierra Madre” and "Lonely Place* seem to involve a more talent—or at least a more dramatic talent. (Ugh, I’m fumbling around here.) You mention the drunken scene in Casablanca. The performance is OK, but it’s not great like the dramatic moments in In a Lonely Place or Treasure.
As for cinematography, editing, etc. I don’t see any flaws, but the quality of these components don’t stand out like they do in films by Welles, Kubrick, Malick, Bergman, or many other filmmakers. Again, Curtiz’s direction seems to be in the “invisible” mold. That doesn’t mean its bad or lacking in quality. Maybe I’m not perceptive enough.
Btw, I liked Joe Dalek’s more specific examples of the filmmaking. Yes, the flashback was well done.
In any event, I do think the film is great—including the acting and writing. And I would agree that it is beyond reproach. (For some reason I feel like the greatness is a little different from other great films. I also feel a similar feeling to other Hollywood great films like It’s a Wonderful Life.)
I don’t think Bogart was very talented. He gave a lot of shitty performances, as opposed to Cary Grant, who always gave perfect performances- even in shitty movies. Bogart had to be treated with very special kid gloves. He’s perfect in Casablanca and In a Lonely Place and Treasure of Sierra Madre. And those were all made by good directors. But he’s awful in High Sierra, The Roaring Twenties, and Sabrina, which were also made by good directors.
The most interesting case is his two Hawks films. I think Hawks intimidated him (Hawks was probably THE most intimidating director in old Hollywood), and these films suffer for it. The staging is perfect, the dialogue is perfect, but Bogart stutter steps his way through these films. He’s hesitant and awkward, which is not what Hawks films are about. The Big Sleep should have been the greatest film ever made, but Bogart’s performance spoils it. Every woman Bogart comes across in the film wipes him off the screen (also a testament to Hawks’ feminism).
Imo, Bogart was a star more than an actor. However, I’d say he was a star who could act—and he had quite a bit of range. Look at the performances you mentioned and also add his performance in The African Queen. That’s some range and some good acting. I don’t think there are stars like that nowadays (at least non come to mind quickly).
As for Hawks, I liked Bogie in The Big Sleep, but I haven’t seen it in ages. He’s great with Bacall in To Have and Have Not. Indeed, the value of the film lies strictly in seeing them on the screen. (The story/plot? Who cares.) My memory is hazier with Sabrina (I’m not sure I saw all of it) and some of the other films, but I don’t remember ever thinking he was “shitty” in a film.
I don’t know, to me Bogart is a strange character because he wasn’t just a star, or didn’t believe himself to be anyway. He came from the stage and, from what I understand and can see, was interested in developing characters and “performing” not just inhabiting a screen persona. That this didn’t always work that well can, I think, be attributed as much to his strange look and voice as anything else. God knows he could be stagy if given a chance, but when the role suited his look and our attitude about him he was pretty great.
For what it’s worth, I don’t really think of Grant as being such a great actor either, certainly not in league with James Stewart for example. He did however develop the finest screen persona of anyone in that he made you want to identify with him or simply just watch him in action so much that all parts seemed to suit him even though they were often played within a very narrow and similar range. He certainly wasn’t a bad actor by any stretch, but when you look at say Mastroianni who could play characters much like Grant’s but also carry roles Grant couldn’t have pulled off as easily, or likely so anyway, I think one can see some of Grant limits. However, Grant had some physical skills to match his beguiling charms that few other actors had, so there definitely were things he could pull off that would be beyond the reach of others. I’m just not sure if that constitutes enough of an advantage to make up for some of the other limits he seemed to have.
I think one can see some of Grant limits
Yeah yeah he sucked in Penny Serenade, but he learned his lesson and never tried it again! But I don’t place much value on an actor’s range. If I want to see serious Cary Grant, I’ll watch a Dana Andrews film.
Casablanca didn’t make any technical innovations or try anything “edgy”. Its just an incredibly entertaining and memorable film.
Heh. Yeah, range in and of itself isn’t necessarily that important as it still depends on how an actor is put to use within a film. Mostly it is useful only for comparing them to each other or establishing some sort of off-screen argument or what might have been sort of complaint. However, in Bogart’s case, somewhat like Tyrone Power’s, the desire to “act” rather than just inhabit a persona is perhaps what causes some of the problems with his relationship to any of his films and to his directors. For me, Bogart does best when he is allowed to built a performance with some variety or pathos as long as it is within a fairly limited character set that suits his look and demeanor. He doesn’t seem as “on” or right when he is allowed to range to far beyond that character set as his limitations in voice and look creates some unpleasant dissonance as if he doesn’t understand who he is in some obvious ways, and he also suffers when he isn’t allowed to build any sort of performance with his character and instead simply is asked to inhabit a body onscreen as “Bogart” or some similar persona. His thirties films, where he was often lower billed than the main star are filled with performances that seem to big for his roles, they feel as if he is just aching to burst out and really do something but can’t. Sometimes this is put to good advantage like in Kid Gallahad and Angels with Dirty Faces and other times when he is a co-star like in Dead End it is also of great use, but often it has something of a disrupting nature to it or seems stagy like it does at times in Petrified Forest. Later, when he was given the lead or bigger roles he could seem disinterested if not downright hostile to the material and give performances that become almost caricatures of themselves. Like Power, he had the desire to do bigger things than I think he was often allowed, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, but his desire to act makes him a different case than Grant who seemed perfectly content to work variations on a character theme, and brilliantly, rather than really push himself beyond his known limits.
Or to put it another way, I think Bogart did best when paired off against another actor who could hold the screen to whom Bogart could react to than simply act on his own as a persona. Mostly these were other male stars, but with the occasional woman like Bergman or Lupino it would also work I’m not sure he was ever that comfortable in the more “star” oriented role where he had to hold the screen on his own even if many of those films are rather well received today due to his cult of personality.
@ Ralch Art is not natural. It is a human development and as such can be redefined or re-categorized according to human values. I propose something and tell you why. You’re basically telling me I’m being dishonest for elaborating or organizing thoughts on the matter and going against a set of rules supposedly set in stone, but rules which, when summoned, have no other face than “they are long established and everyone knows them”. It is a human development and as such can be redefined or re-categorized according to human values. I propose something and tell you why. You’re basically telling me I’m being dishonest for elaborating or organizing thoughts on the matter and going against a set of rules supposedly set in stone, but rules which, when summoned, have no other face than “they are long established and everyone knows them”.
Art is not natural.
Please explain. Are human’s not natural? is structure not natural? is order not natural?
set of rules supposedly set in stone
Tastes change an evolve; art changes an evolves; canons change an evolve.
…have no other face than “they are long established and everyone knows them”
The face is criticism, perception, thought, feelings, etc.
Are you familiar with the historical narrative of art?
I’m going to guess he means art doesn’t arise from nature directly but from men so it is all, in that sense, artificial in some way. There is some worthwhile truth to that in that expecting art to mirror nature in an exact way is something of a fool’s errand. Art is an organized selection that comes from life and experience, but it isn’t a replication basically, and as such I don’t even think he is entirely in disagreement with things you’ve said elsewhere about ways to view it if my interpretation is correctish.
canons change an evolve.
For half a millennium, Da Vinci’s paintings have been integral parts of the “painting canon”.
Taste evolves, art evolves. Does canon evolve too?
Casablanca is charming. Ingmar is beautiful, Claude Rains is amusing, Bogart is laid back (although his lastminute self-sacrifice is a bit unrealistic), most of the other characters are interesting, the music is great, the photography is good. It’s just one of those times when an indifferent script suddenly comes to life. None of the actors knew the film would become a classic and I don’t suppose Curtiz thought for a moment he was making a great film. It was just an accident. A good one.
he means art doesn’t arise from nature directly
The assumption there is that humans are supra-nature i.e. somehow above nature.
What humans do is of nature. Humans create art – can art be defined in terms of nature?
I would say yes.
Art expresses, resolves, and suspends conflict through/with the use of a medium.
Animals do those things – the medium being a territory.
The difference might be in the concept of overvaluation.
Yet, climate changes overvalue one species for another. A drought produces the predominance of certan plants which recede when the conditions revert to normal.
I’ll give someone a dime if they can name a concept not found in nature.
haha We will disagree on definitions.
I’ll give someone a dime if they can name a concept not represented in nature.
haha We will disagree on definitions.
I’ve been thinking about this since you began this thread, Jazz, and my first thought is the one that I’ve settled on: Casablanca is a perfect distillation of a particular style; namely the Old Hollywood studio system. Most of the films made in that system had “invisible” direction, as you call it. These were all craftsmen, not really artists (aside from a few), and they practically made films on an assembly line. Casablanca seems like the perfect Old Hollywood picture, especially when you consider all the things that could have gone wrong (things like the original casting of Ronald Reagan in the Bogart role are the stuff of legend). This is a film where literally everything came together perfectly (or near-perfectly). For example, look at the “As Time Goes By” scene. The shot of Bergman’s face as she listens is a great one, but it’s nothing other than a solidly crafted shot. Sometimes, all you need is a beautiful song, a beautiful face, three-point lighting, and a dead-center shot.
You can come up with a lot of reasons for Casablanca’s greatness: the performances, the memorable dialogue, the great storyline and character arcs, the romance, the movie star chemistry, etc. But what it all comes down to is that Casablanca is the apotheosis of the Old Hollywood style of filmmaking. I think that’s ultimately why it’s great.
I have no problem with Old Hollywood style films. I’m not sure that Casablanca is my favorite of them, but I really like that style, particularly because no one makes films like that anymore and it captures a time in the culture that was very different from what exists now. Movies back then may have had echoes of “reality” but mostly they were stories that took you away from it. Why is that wrong? How does that mean it’s “pop” art? And why is the distinction being made anyway, as if anything that is popular is somehow automatically garbage, because you are placing it below “high art,” whatever that means? But then again, I’ve seen this view all over the forums. It’s a view that isn’t going to be changed by any discussion that happens here. Which means this particular debate is going to continue… forever…
@ Odi Movies back then may have had echoes of “reality”….
I think the echo of “reality” is what makes Casablanca ….effective.
It represents the universal notion that an ideal will always be just out of reach.
^ Odi my lady…..there’s a difference between great entertainment and garbage entertainment….Casablanca is part of the former group but…..it’s neither Benjamin Britten nor Boccaccio in any case ;)
Yes — and that’s cool!