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?

wrong turn

as some of you are aware, i have a long-term project building a family tree. this has led me to some really interesting discoveries, like the fact that i am partly descended from crazy cat people, including the patron saint of crazy cat ladies, that a progenitor of mine once defeated a french naval assault with an army of scarecrows, that my well-established scottish roots are just as much norwegian as scottish, and that a relative of mine from the early middle ages let one rip with such ferocity that that's basically all he's remembered for. but this week, while i was in the midst of adding some newly obtained information, i found that some of my previous research had gone in an unexpected direction: the wrong one.

where possible, i try to track down stories of my better-known relatives and in doing so this week, i realised that i couldn't connect one of my greatĖ£ grandfathers to his son through any outside sources. what's worse that i found numerous sources that con…

dj kali & mr. dna @ casa del popolo post-punk night

last night was a blast! a big thank you to dj tyg for letting us guest star on her monthly night, because we had a great time. my set was a little more reminiscent of the sets that i used to do at katacombes [i.e., less prone to strange meanderings than what you normally hear at the caustic lounge]. i actually invited someone to the night with the promise "don't worry, it'll be normal". which also gives you an idea of what to expect at the caustic lounge. behold my marketing genius.

mr. dna started off putting the "punk" into the night [which i think technically means i was responsible for the post, which doesn't sound quite so exciting]. i'd say that he definitely had the edge in the bouncy energy department.

many thanks to those who stopped in throughout the night to share in the tunes, the booze and the remarkably tasty nachos and a special thank you to the ska boss who stuck it out until the end of the night and gave our weary bones a ride home…

eat the cup 2018, part seven :: oh, lionheart

it all seemed so magical: england's fresh-faced youngsters marching all the way through to a semi-final for the first time since 1990. everywhere, the delirious chants of "it's coming home". and then, deep into added time, the sad realization: it's not coming home. oh england, my lionheart.

now, if we're being really strict about things, my scottish ancestors would probably disown me for supporting England, because those are the bastards who drove them off their land and sent them packing to this country that's too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. and indeed, shops in scotland have sold through their entire stock of croatian jerseys, as the natives rallied behind england's opponents in the semi-final. however, a few generations before they were starved and hounded from the lands they'd occupied for centuries, my particular brand of scottish ancestors would have encouraged me to support england [assuming that national football had even…