Thursday, February 5, 2009

Here's Looking at You, Kid

I think he did the right thing. I think Rick made the best decision by letting Ilsa go. I had never seen Casablanca until last night, and it was everything I imagined it to be. Rick is one of my new favorite movie leads, simply because he seems to be everything admirable in a man. He is neutral when it comes to arguments, has relationships with someone of every race in the movie, is generous to others when they are in need, and does the right thing, even if it’s not in his best interest. Like letting Ilsa go. 

Something that struck me in the conversation last night was the comment that Ilsa is symbolic of Paris, of a different time and life, for Rick. And by letting her step on that plane to Lisbon, he was letting that part of his life go. Finally. Not gonna lie…she annoyed me. 

I understand that back when Casablanca was filmed, the leading lady role was that of the dependent women, an angel who no one could get mad at. This was early into the war, so the feminist movement hadn’t exactly come around yet.

 But the constant look of sadness? The single tear rolling down her perfectly powdered cheek? Her inability to make huge decisions that involve her for herself? The constant halo that surrounds her? It’s a little much for me. I have grown up in a time where women are looked at as more than a trophy wife. But, I still can’t understand how women could accept Ilsa’s role in this movie without a little disgust, when it was so…PATHETIC. Even when she pulled a gun on Rick, viewers can see that she won’t go through with shooting him. Rick even knows this. Perhaps I lack the ability to appreciate the early leading lady’s role. But if a woman is going to be in a starring role, I want her to be someone I would be proud to admire. I want a baller. I want THIS gal

Another thing that caught my attention was how war and politics invaded absolutely everything in the movie. The politics of “it’s now what you know, but who you know” were in the very rules of living in Casablanca. To avoid being arrested for some crazy crime, you had to be friends with the police. To get a ticket out of Casablanca, you had to know Signor Ferrari. To get into Rick’s Café Américain, you have to know Rick. War also is found throughout the movie, in more than just the setting around the characters. There is a war between the police and Rick. There is a war between Rick and his past. There is a war between Ilsa and her desires to be with Rick and her desires to stay with Laszlo. In one scene, 2 police officers have just left a conversation at a table with Laszlo, and one says to the other, “a very tactical retreat, sir.” War even invades their conversations. It’s not surprising, however. When a world war is being fought across multiple continents, it is nearly impossible to not have it affect some part of your life.


  1. Anna, I totally agree with you about Ilsa's character. To me, the most annoying thing about Ilsa is that Ingrid Bergman, who is most remembered by her performance in Casablanca, seems much more of Rosie (great reference, btw!) type than an Ilsa type of gal, judging from her life and later performances. I think that Ilsa's role in the film is very indicative of the way America viewed women before the U.S. got heavily involved in World War II. Even though I agree that the whole damsel in distress thing in older movies gets irritating at times, it's still kind of cool to see leading ladies evolve into roles with much more significance and impact. I really enjoyed hearing your point of view!

  2. I agree completely. Women in movies pre-WWII were ridiculous, but so were the women of that society. They were trophy wives, only living for a man. It's sad that women ever took on this role in society because we have so much more potential than that. I couldn't imagine the reactions you would hear if a character like Ilsa were seriously cast in a movie today, women have come so far from that time.

  3. I agree and disagree about Ilsa's character. Yes, she is not a strong woman but I believe women could be strong in the position of society. Women could be strong through supporting their husbands and really fulfilling the needs of the home. I guess there is some part of me that thinks it is somewhat romantic that she doesn't have to stand up for herself. Ilsa can be weak and will be supported by her husband anyway, but in the end, as women of this time, we see Ilsa as a weakling.

  4. How could you remake this story giving the Ilsa character a stronger role?

  5. I was not expecting this to put the feminists in class on crusade, but I completely see your point. Strong women as leads are a more modern convention, for sure, and Ingrid Bergman, beautiful as she is, is a weak (in our eyes) female lead, as she does nothing but depend on Rick. Taking it out of the context of the era (where all leading women were filmed this way), what do you interpret Ilsa's role in the story to be?

    I'm enjoying your posts, Anna! Always a pleasure. But be sure to make this accessible to someone who doesn't even know what you're doing this blog for. For instance, what conversation from last night?