I’m not much of a drama man myself but I want to say right off the bat that with Casablanca it’s another kettle of fish.
A disarming and enchanting piece of brilliant storytelling and craft, this film gets a bead on the short-lived romance between Rick and Ilsa in a vivid and Romantic Paris, soon to be occupied by the Nazis. In the turmoil of the World War II and with the Nazis drawing ever so nearer, the lovers are reduced to fleeing the city and France altogether, for that matter. We see a hell-and-back-faced Rick waiting on the brink of despair in the train station for Ilsa to pop up,and finally having to leave alone. The end of a great love , a broken heart and a scrap of paper with a couple of scribbled words from her, letting him know she won’t make it, telling him she loves him and urging him to leave without her.
Now the proprietor of a first-rate nightclub in Casablanca, part of unoccupied France, but crawling with expatriates, refugees, and Nazis as well, Rick embodies the middle-aged, hard-bitten, cynical man with a nothing-can-surprise-or-hurt-me-anymore look on his face. But Ilsa, gorgeous as they come and on the arm of her husband, of all the bars on God’s green earth, pops in Rick’s, to rake over the past and bring up a bittersweet mixture of love and hate.
Not a sole line wasted in the script, not half a moment poorly placed, not a camera angle botched up, this is a paragon of romantic drama. Poignant, heart-rending and set in a glamorous, dreamlike Casablanca, in a tumultuous but romantic age, Curtiz’s magnificent film takes us through a wistful tale of love, lost and found and lost again, and a hell of a walk to remember.