So we have one of the most popular films ever, with one of the most cherished screenplays ever.We have two actors that are now screen icons in part because of this.
So this one is tough to talk about. It has so entered our social imagination that to see it for the first time feels like the second. Many of the themes are shown the way you would expect them to be shown if you had to imagine them. That’s in part because so many other movies reference this one. I can only assume that the United States cherishes this film as much as they cherish their right to bear arms, or the fifth amendment.
Why so? Well, it reflected an attitude about war, something important for the time. This attitude is a kind of cynical nonchalance, hypocritical almost. A sort of half-hearted engagement (hence the double-crossing all throughout). Rick as a hero, above the indulgence of everafter love, putting himself at risk, for a good cause, coming out unscathed, but after that risk is measured, it was always so little, it was always so easy.
So this film here partly fails for me. Oh yes, it has a legendary romanticism, Bogart projects a necessary attitude, and it is technically competent for the time. Even the screenplay has this almost-metrical engineering of bouts pushing each other for progression in a machine-like perfect way.
But I don’t like what this film sells me. It’s because it wasn’t made for me.
But it is a fine movie in its engineering. And I will admit I did find a place in it, a small seat: Sam’s. When Bergman is talking to him, it is like she is talking to everybody coming as a stranger to this deeply American thing. I’m sure the writers knew this, and that’s the reason why Bogart hides the travel letters inside the piano. Ah, that piano, that song, that lost love. Go see Sam. Go see him if you’re a fleeing refugee in this American affair.