Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

AFI Post #1 PostScript

Posted by Gerald on December 7, 2010

A minor continuation on the theme of the group experience of movies:

This weekend I finally watched “The Hangover”.  Many of my friends really enjoyed it, so when I saw it was about to start on one of the movie channels (Cinemax?) Saturday night I thought I’d watch it.  I found it funny, but not overly so.

The thing is, I was alone at home when I watched it.  I think that this sort of comedy – maybe most movie comedy – requires that group response to reach its height of effectiveness.  It takes a really great joke to be funny when there is no one around to share the humor and to create that emotional feedback.

Booze might have helped too.

Back to “Casablanca”:

I was struck on this viewing by how un-heroic Rick is as the film opens.  I think this is particularly notable in his drunken encounter with Ilsa.  He is petty and weak in that scene.  I’m not sure Bogart does the best job of conveying that I’ve ever seen, but I have some real respect for him and for Michael Curtiz for being willing to go there.  Being willing to play a “bad guy” is one thing, but being willing to play weak and petty is something else, particularly in that day and age.

I think this weakness creates a strong contrast with the ending.  Not so much with Rick’s heroism in standing off Major Strasser, but his heroism in sacrificing what he wants (Ilsa) for the greater good.  Of course this is one of the things that had to help create the reaction to the film when it was released in 1943.  Millions of people were playing out their own moments of decision, parting, and sacrifice as that film was screened.  I couldn’t help but think about that today on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

One last thing – this film is seen as one of the great romances in Hollywood history.  Still, I would argue that there is a relationship in the film whose workings are far more significant to the story than Rick and Ilsa’s love affair.  I refer of course to the “bro-mance” between Rick and Renault.  It is the transformation of their friendly antagonism into a partnership that provides the real climax for the film.  I’m struck by the idea that the dynamic there – rivalry and tension that results in an eventual pairing – is the same dynamic we can see in many other notable romantic comedies (“The Philadelphia Story” comes to mind).  So maybe the great love story here isn’t between Rick and Ilsa, whose relationship ends on the airfield, but between Rick and Renault, whose (new) relationship begins there.

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One Response to “AFI Post #1 PostScript”

  1. Rebecca said

    Good summation, Gerald. It really was the beginning of what would probably have been a great partner ship.

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