Thursday, August 19, 2004

You must remember this...

So, about two hours ago, I went out at lunch time and rented Casablanca. A friend of mine tells me it's boring, and maybe it will be. But I don't care. I want to see it at least once, just to have it under my belt.

I do hope it's something great that I can latch onto, keep coming back to, enjoy for years. There's no way to know for sure. Citizen Kane, for instance... a friend of mine built it up as this cinematic masterpiece. This is common knowledge, right? It's the proof that Orson Welles was a genius... yeah, you know, Orson Welles? The "genius" who panicked the Eastern Seaboard in the 1930s with a radio program? Maybe "genius" isn't the right word, hmmm? Maybe "impresario" is more appropriate? Possibly "oblivious butthead"? Anyway, you can probably see where this is going. I found Citizen Kane to be boring, pretentious crap. Too many scene cuts, too many scenes, too much explanation. Instead of focusing on one or two moments in the guy's life, we get the re-enforcements larded on, layer after layer, see, this is what he wanted out of life; see, this is what wore him down; see, this is why he turned mean... Were audiences back then really that stupid? And all to set up what really boils down to a visual gag... Rosebud, it's a sled! Yeah! See, he was yearning for the simplicity of his youth... Wow, there's a shocker, huh? Unlike the other 99.999999999% of humanity, this guy yearned for his simpler, innocent, carefree childhood... That's your point, huh, Orson? Yeah. Genius.

Now some of the other things you can say about the movie are fair cop. The camera angles, for instance, as I've been led to understand, were new and unique at the time. Bold, daring, breaking away from static conventions. Okay, fair enough, maybe. But if so, the movie's a victim of its own success. In popularizing such points of view, it ironically rendered itself nothing special. Sort of like IBM introducing a PC standard that anyone could (and thus, did) clone from parts off the shelf. So unless it's pointed out to you that yes, this is where that came from, you're not going to recognize the originality of the technique. So again, you're left with a "so what?" movie that, without the benefit of cinematographic esoterica, looks like any other. Forgive me, folks, if the genius seems a little thin on the ground.

But anyway, I'm hoping whatever it is that's made Casablanca so special for all these years will be self-evident when I watch it. I guess I'll let you know. :)

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