Speaking of romantic gestures - though I assume the rose was more of a friendly one - I went to a screening of Casablanca last night.
I'm snobbishly suspicious of anything popular, on the grounds that popular=lowest common denominator. But I do think If is the greatest poem in the English language, and Casablanca the greatest film. It's just that on these particular picks the rest of the world happens to agree with me.
And how. The auditorium was as packed as I've seen the NFT for something that wasn't a preview or special event. Once the film began, nobody whispered or fidgeted. Not only were there good hearty laughs at the funny lines, but audible sobs in the fraught bits. And at the end - for a sixty-year-old film! - we clapped.
I'm always amazed by how fresh the film seems. It's old, I've seen it plenty of times before and everyone knows the classic lines, yet there's so much life in it. It's packed with action and dialogue - the pace is kept up throughout, with little running gags to break up the intense emotional goings-on. Any one of the sub-plots and incidental characters, you feel, has enough story to make another film out of.
Although I could almost recite the script, I still notice something new with every viewing. This time it was a goof:
It's one of the greatest scenes in the film. The Germans have entered Paris and the station is crowded with refugees. Bogie, as Rick, is waiting on the platform for the love of his life, but all that turns up is a letter: "I'm leaving you and I can't tell you why. Love ya. Byeeeee!"
It's pouring with rain, absolutely sheeting it down, and the ink runs on the notepaper, dissolving Ilsa's last words to him. Rick just stands there getting soaked while good old Sam tries to shepherd him into a carriage.
In the next shot, he's boarding the train and his hat and coat are dry as a bone.
It says something for suspension of disbelief that it's taken me a dozen viewings to notice this.
(The IMDB was ahead of me, of course.)
I should find something to criticise. The opening monologue with the map of the world is overblown, and there's the kind of gross racial generalisation you'd usually only associate with the English. Bogart sometimes seems to be rushing his lines: "Maybenottodaymaybenottomorrowbutsoonand
I have to fight hard to say anything bad about Bogie, mind. I'll watch him in anything, and this is probably his best role. His natural habitat is a trenchcoat and he excels at playing the sort of miserable bastard whom everyone loves anyway because a) they're sure he's a nice guy underneath, b) he's Been Hurt and c) he's witty with it.
On this viewing, I realised even more that the three main protagonists are all trying hard to do The Right Thing, and it's making them all unhappy in varying degrees. If one or two characters had gone blithely ahead and done the wrong thing, they would have been happier in the short term - but I like to think it wouldn't have lasted..
It's a good thing conflicts between morals and emotion don't come my way all that often. I hope that if they did I'd be able to do the Rick thing.