Tuesday, March 11, 2014

       It’s no secret that I love classic movies. Whenever my friends gush over the latest films they’ve seen, I can be found sitting silently in the corner, clueless as to what they’re talking about. While the rest of the world obsesses over Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, I’m the lone wolf obsessing over Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. Most of the time, I feel like the odd one out for being one of the very few young people fascinated by films that are eighty years old. However, all that changed last Tuesday, when I got the rare opportunity to see Casablanca, one of my favorite films, on the big screen.

Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa and Humphrey Bogart as Rick

       Casablanca, known as one of the greatest films ever made, tells the story of Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (played by Ingrid Bergman). It’s World War II, and Rick is the owner of Rick’s Café Americain, a nightclub and gambling den located in Casablanca, Morocco (which was under French control at that time). Suddenly, the woman of Rick’s dreams walks through his doors—the beautiful Ilsa Lund. Rick and Ilsa were lovers in Paris many years ago. As Paris fell to Nazi rule, they planned to escape together, but at the train station, Rick receives a note from Ilsa. She has inexplicably abandoned him. Now, many years later, she is back, but married to the Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo, a man who is in danger of being captured by Louis Renault, Casablanca’s police captain, and the Nazis who are allied with Renault. Rick has to make the momentous decision of helping Ilsa and her husband escape Casablanca safely together, or running away with the love of his life and leaving her husband to the Nazis.

Humphrey Bogart outside “Rick’s Café Americain” 

       Seeing Casablanca on the big screen was probably the closest I’ll ever get to traveling back in time to my favorite era in film history. It felt like it was 1942 again, and I, for once in my life, was watching the latest blockbuster film. It was amazing to see this film the way it was meant to be seen. However, I got a better deal than those who got to see it back in 1942—this screening was free, while 1940s moviegoers had to pay a whopping 25 cents to see it. I wasn’t the odd one out this time—the theater was full to bursting with classic movie fans that understood the artistry and historical importance of these films. To my surprise, most of the audience was young people, just like me. I was expecting the theater to full of 90 year-olds who probably remembered when this film was first released. There was a strong sense of community as everyone in the theater laughed at Humphrey Bogart’s dry sense of humor and cried during the more emotional scenes.    

“Play it again, Sam”: one of the many famous lines from this film.

       While I was watching the film, I was constantly reminded of my trip to Hollywood in 2011, where I got to visit the original set of Rick’s Café Americain and see tons of set pieces and costumes from the film (Here’s a piece of classic film trivia: Humphrey Bogart was shorter than his costar, Ingrid Bergman, so he had to wear platform shoes in order to appear taller in his scenes with her). At the expense of sounding corny, all of these elements brought a tear to my eye. I learned that classic film isn’t a lost art form. Tons of people love them just as much as I do, and are dedicated to keeping these films alive in a time that’s dominated by fast-paced technology. You don’t need 3D effects, gigantic explosions, computers, or green screens in order to make a great film. Just because classic films don’t have these effects, it doesn’t make them “crude” or “primitive” as some people like to pass them off today. All a great film needs is a compelling story, great writing, and great actors. Even though films aren’t the same anymore, classic films aren’t dead.

-Sarah Allam

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