FT Top 100 Films

First, the film would not work if it was called White House. Obv.
Second, for bald-faced propagandist politics, you cannot get better than Casablanca. The subtext is “them crap Europeans always need us Yanks to sort ’em out”. Its a curmudgeonly acceptance that not only is the US the most powerful nation, but just because it shit kicks for ’em, it does not have to like them Europeans. Especially haughty ones like Victor Lazlo. But if we want to fuck their women, then it is spoils of war all the way.

How did a movie star with the nickname Bogie ever make it? Here he is as persistant as his namesake, doggedly trying not to get involved, not to be the hero. Can’t someone else be the hero this time, Bogie (and America) are saying. We’re all so bored of being the hero. Can’t we be the anti-hero instead. And that is indeed what happens. Bogie saves the day, but on his terms. And notably not for any particularly moral reason either. He has fucked his ex, the apparently wonderful Lazlo’s woman and in payment for Ilsa’s three seconds* of whoredom can happily sort them out.

Casablanca needs no introduction, which is not to say its classic status is unwarrented. There are plenty of films which are better and plays these gurff anti-hero posturing in a more satisfying way. But very few have the killer lines (Beuatiful friendship), the villains and the heroes married to that priceless moment in history: when the Americans came into the war. Europe loves Casablanca because it promised them help, the Americans love Casablanca because it told them that there was nothing morally wrong about getting something out of being helpful. Rewrite that history. Perhaps Rick and Louis do start a beautiful friendship at the end, but it is only because Rick realises that he can get something out of being the good guy. Casablanca is the Marshall Plan in film form, and it makes us all feel good about it.
Play it again. Shame.

*It is actually rather unclear what happens in those three seconds the camera cuts away, and is probably unlikely that sex does occur, but that is what the film wants us to believe.