8:00 PM, 16th August, 2013
Casablanca is a cinematic icon, sometimes lauded as the best film ever. Unlike some contenders in that category, Casablanca holds its own in engaging a modern audience. It has a tight script crafted around a gripping plot – involving a love triangle between a jaded saloon owner, a resistance leader and a mysterious young woman – performed by a hugely talented cast, to the pitch-perfect direction of Michael Curtiz.
At the height of the Second World War, with the Nazis occupying France, the port city of Casablanca in French-Morocco has become a hub of illicit activity. Refugees from across Europe are drawn there in the hopes of making it to America, and many of them find themselves trapped in German-occupied territory.
Rick Blaine (Bogart), is the stand out of the piece; the original Han Solo with his cynical attitude of blatant neutrality to everyone he meets. His saloon runs at the whim of the corrupt German officials, who get good odds on roulette, but equally serves the under-the-table dealings of the immigration trade, as desperate escapees of Europe seek exit visas to leave.
The film is also known for its romance, but it does not deal in romantic cliché. The relationships between the three central characters are mysteries slowly unveiled over the course of the film; but enough ambiguity is left to leave the audience with questions, even today. It’s a cinematic classic, and absolutely worth checking out, whether for the first or the fiftieth time.
9:57 PM, 16th August, 2013
Repeatedly named as one of the greatest films ever made, Citizen Kane opens at the palatial estate of Xanadu, where the reclusive owner, the eponymous Charles Foster Kane (Welles) is on his deathbed. In bed, and holding a snow globe, he utters his final word “Rosebud…” as the globe slips from his hand and smashes, in one of the most famous scenes of black and white cinema.
Newsreel reporter Jerry Thompson (Alland) decides to investigate the meaning of Kane’s last word. The interviews with Kane’s former friends and associates provide a framing device for telling the romantic story of Kane’s life, a life where he ‘got everything that he wanted and then lost it’.
Citizen Kane is one of those movies worth watching not just for its own value, but also for the countless allusions, references and quotes that pepper other works. Every time I’ve seen the film I’ve come away realising at least one other work contained a reference to Citizen Kane. If you haven’t seen it before and see only one film this semester, make it this one.