22 March 2012

"Casablanca" 70th Anniversary Event

Casablanca 70th Anniversary Event
Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
With Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre
A Hal B. Wallis production
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch
From a play by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison
Music by Max Steiner
Date of Screening: 21 March 2012

Warner Bros. rolled out their new digital print for the film's 70th anniversary with a one-night-only screening at Cinemark Theaters through Fathom Events. I was nervous I wouldn't feel well enough to go; I wound up having to lie down in the early afternoon. I did ultimately make it to the screening, however.

The theater was pretty light. I guesstimate no more than 50-60 people in an auditorium that could easily seat 3-4x that many. There was a 2:30 screening earlier in the afternoon, so I suspect many of the older viewers likelier to show up attended that screening.

There was an introduction clip hosted by Robert Osborne for Turner Classic Movies; it was kind of nice, I suppose, but they kept cutting to clips from the film and instead of exciting me I became annoyed because I wanted those moments to all be fresh for me on the big screen and I felt a little cheated out of some of their special charm.

The print itself looked pretty good to me, though some specific bits were kind of rough. Anything shot with a soft lens (mostly closeups of Ingrid Bergman) looked kind of damaged to me. At least once I was conscious of the digitization of the film because I saw what appeared to be the familiar exposure of pixels in a particularly bright shot of Bergman's face. The sound was great, though I was conscious of a lot of ambient static throughout.

As for the film itself, I'm even more in love with it now than I was before--which is saying something because going into tonight, it was already #12/1334 on my Flickchart! Claude Rains is hilarious throughout the picture, as are most of the supporting cast. Paul Henreid is the only one whose tone seems out of sorts in the film, but perhaps that's part of the key to why it works. He's such a straight man that the comedy never manages to overshadow the dramatic elements of the film. And it works for Victor Lazslo to be that devoid of humor, what with him having been held in a Nazi concentration camp for a year and all.

My favorite moment in the entire film, though, is when the patrons of Rick's defy the Germans by passionately singing "La Marseillaise." It's perhaps the most triumphant moment in the whole thing, and seeing it on the big screen with an audience made it even better. That scene is why we pay to go to see movies, and it's one of the reasons it feels so good to watch Casablanca.

Click here for my review of the Casablanca Two-Disc Special Edition DVD (now out of print)

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