Skip to main content

you must remember this

as part of an extremely mellow (read: post-night out) saturday, i ended up watching the movie casablanca for the first time in years.

as classic movies go, it's a pretty peculiar piece. we've all seen "classic" movies that have aged less than gracefully (go watch ben hur). and we've all seen movies that originated cliches that have stuck in the public psyche well beyond the scope of the original audience (that mad shout of "it's alive!" from frankenstein, for example). but it's hard to find another movie where so much of the script has been etched into popular memory.

part of that is because the script is just so repetitive. you know the line "here's looking at you kid" is one you're supposed to remember, because it crops up about every ten minutes. alternately, there's a line like "we'll always have paris" which is so contrived that i can't believe audiences in the forties didn't find it just as corny as it sounds today.

in retrospect, the studio's expectation that the film would be a box office disaster seems entirely reasonable.

and yet, somehow, the film maintains a lovable quality that's hard to resist. yes, looking back, humphrey bogart, like many icons of the time, is pretty one dimensional. and ingrid bergman is luminous, but her character, when you get down to it, really isn't that interesting. if the film rested on their shoulders, it probably wouldn't have been exceptional.

what is exceptional is the cast of background characters. sidney greenstreet and peter lorre, fresh from working with bogart on the maltese falcon, put in entertaining appearances. paul heinreid, in the uncomfortable role of the third corner of the love triangle, actually makes what could be a wimpy, insipid caricature of political virtue seem like the kind of guy you would leave the love of your life to help. conrad veidt, most famous now as the sinister somnambulist cesare in the cabinet of doctor caligari, was a particularly amusing choice for the nazi arch-villain major strasser. a staunch anti-nazi who had been known to claim to be a jew on government surveys (he was not), he had fled his home country after being blacklisted by hitler's government. (another interesting nugget: veidt's disfigured face in the silent horror classic the man who laughs was the inspiration for the illustrations of the joker in batman, making him party to another cultural cliche.)

of course, claude raines as the delectably unpredictable renault pretty much steals the whole film from under the noses of its stars. no matter what happens, it tends to be the guy that makes you laugh that you remember the best. (and of course, he is the agent of that quirky, neither happy nor tragic ending that helps lift the movie above garden variety melodrama.)

movies from the forties, suffused as they often were in the politics and morals of the day (more so, for instance, than a lot of films from the twenties), seem pretty creaky in retrospect, but the ones that stand out tend to be the ones where someone had the good sense to pay attention to the details rather than just the foreground.

Comments

I still love that movie, despite, I'd even say because, of its flaws. We must remember that for one thing, it could have been worse: Ronald Reagan was supposed to play the Bogart part (it was written for him.) It was also a "major" film, not an author play; we're not talking Becket here. Its entertainment, but without product placement. I would stack it up against any of its modern equivalent any day and there would be no comparison.
And come on, its Bogey!

as long as you're here, why not read more?

jihadvertising?

i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:



am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: chanel's velvet realm

who doesn't love velvet? i know when i was younger, i used to, as george costanza longed to, "drape myself in velvet" and although that phase passed with time, i still think that the plush fabric has to be one of the high points of human achievement, up there with interior heating, advanced medicine and vodka. so to me, it's no surprise that one of the most hotly anticipated launches in the cosmetic world is chanel's new "rouge allure velvet" lipstick line, because even the name immediately makes me want to put it on my lips.

on a more concrete level, chanel describes these lipsticks as "luminous matte", which is sort of like the holy grail for lipstick lovers. we all want those intense, come-hither film noir lips, the sort where young men and sunlight are lost and never heard from again, but historically [including during the making of those films], applying a matte lipstick felt sort of like colouring in your lips with an old crayon that had…

eat the pain away?

nearly twenty years ago, an emergency room doctor took a look at the crushing muscle tension i was experiencing [they were clenched enough that a doctor at my regular clinic couldn't get a reflex reaction on my left side and thought i might be having a stroke] and told me she believed that i had fibromyalgia. a couple of weeks later, i went to see a family doctor that a coworker had recommended to me. when i told him what the other doctor had said, he snapped that i was being ridiculous, because, if i'd had fibromyalgia, "i wouldn't be able to move". after i moved to toronto, i got a new family doctor and told her what the other doctors had said. she said that she couldn't be sure, but it was better just to deal with any symptoms i had one at a time. then i came back to montreal and got a new family doctor, who didn't really buy into the whole idea of fibromyalgia and said there was no way to do any definitive test anyway. that doctor passed away, and my …