Casablanca (1942)

Screenshot of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Cl...
Screenshot of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart from the trailer for the film Casablanca. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Persistently popular for decades after its premiere, Casablanca ran the natural risk of becoming overly familiar. Although it has generated a storehouse of cliches and fabulous dialogue snippets that have found their way into everyday language without very many of us knowing where they came from (“I’m shocked—shocked”), the film rarely has occasion to show up on TV anymore, and teens no longer consider Humphrey Bogart a hip counterculture icon. Never mind; Casablanca is still the quintessential mating dance of tough-guy cynicism and heart-tugging yearning—of self-satisfaction and self-sacrifice, be they in the context of savoring a love affair or saving the world from Nazis (or, as is the case with this film, both). Which means that, unlike so many of today’s romances, this is not strictly a “chick flick”—the sensibility at work here (primarily due to a remarkable screenplay that was written and rewritten a day at a time as the movie was being shot) acknowledges, caters to, and converses with both genders. Bogart has become virtually synonymous with the twentieth century’s first definition of a man’s man: ugly and short, but indescribably charismatic, and so cool he can run into his lost love (a daydream-inducing Ingrid Bergman), spar with Nazi officers, crack jokes, and subtly reveal a lifetime of bitterness and desire, all at exactly the same time. And Bergman, for her part, is intelligent, gentle, and fantastically desirable as the despairing hub around which the battle for the free world revolves. That’s what makes this movie ideal for Valentine’s Day viewing—neither partner is simply indulging the other, and both will easily be drawn into the tragic intercourse of love and history.

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