Enter ‘movie heaven’ with Salt Lake Film Society’s screenings of the classic ‘Casablanca’
If you have any love of movies don’t miss out on Salt Lake Film Society’s screenings of the 1942 Best Picture winner ‘Casablanca’
“Here’s looking at you, Kid,” “We’ll always have Paris,” “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” “Round up the usual suspects,” “Play it again, Sam,“ ”I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Even if you have never seen the 1942 film “Casablanca” or even heard of it, there’s a very good chance that you recognize the quotes listed above. In a way that few movies have been able to do “Casablanca” has woven its way into society and become a way for us to talk to one another; shorthand for heroic sacrifice and the triumph of idealism over cynicism.
Through the Salt Lake Film Society, one will have the opportunity to watch “Casablanca” on the big screen at downtown Salt Lake City’s Broadway Theater. For anyone with even a fleeting interest in movies, this is a “run, don’t walk” situation. “Casablanca” is a crown jewel of cinema. Boasting one of the greatest screenplays ever written, it is a work of rock-solid craftsmanship — shining, witty and vibrant.
What is ‘Casablanca’ about?
Like a piece of modern mythology, the plot of “Casablanca” is simple, but it’s one onto which universal human emotions and experiences can be projected.
It’s set during World War II, and the Nazis have arrived in the Vichy France-controlled city of Casablanca. The only way to get out of Casablanca and travel to freedom is with letters of transit. Two letters of transit end up at Rick’s Café, hidden after their thief is killed by police. The gin joint is run by cynical American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) who “sticks his neck out for nobody.”
Complications arise within Rick’s isolationist views when old flame Ilsa Lund, played by the radiant Ingrid Bergman, arrives with her husband, resistance fighter Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) looking for safe passage out of Casablanca. Blaine must then decide whether to use the letters of transit for his own ends, or to help the woman he still loves be with her husband.
A refugee story made by refugees
Besides the emotional potency of its story, one of the true delights of “Casablanca” is the way it creates its world.
Woven through the tale of Blaine, Lund and Laszlo are the stories of others seeking sanctuary at Rick’s Café — the waiters, musicians, croupiers, a Bulgarian newlywed couple, a pickpocket, women selling their jewelry, the owner of “the second-largest banking house in Amsterdam” and an elderly Hungarian couple learning English.
The scenes in Rick’s Café bustle and hum with a lived-in quality, and conversation and Sam’s piano notes are ever-present. It’s immersive. Throughout the 102 minute runtime, one feels as though they were sitting at a table in the café. Even a character with two lines is given their own singular dream and a sense of a life lived when the camera isn’t rolling.
A great many of the actors were themselves refugees from Europe, of Jewish descent and not, and were able to bring their own experiences fleeing the Nazis to the screen. The tears and intensity of emotion during the “La Marseillaise” scene feel real — there’s not a whiff of performance. What must it have been like for someone who had recently had to leave their home in France to act out that moment?
Why are we still watching ‘Casablanca’?
Why are we still watching “Casablanca” 80 years later? Simply put, because it’s a good movie. “Casablanca” was able to tap into universal human emotions and ones that have not changed throughout many decades. The nobility, courage and honor that the characters display have not been depleted by time.
When one views “Casablanca” on the big screen, with Rick’s Café and the faces of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman larger than life, one is able to see their bravery and sense of duty, and vicariously act out their heroism ourselves. We are able to learn from their example. Walking out of the theater it becomes rather clear that the problems of three people amount to more than a hill of beans in this world.
Showtimes and tickets are available on the Salt Lake Film Society’s website.