I watched Casablanca again last night. There are moments in which I know I have failed as a mother. One of those moments came a couple of years ago when my daughter informed me that she had never seen Casablanca. I ordered it on the spot and designated a movie night. Sad to say, I don't think she was impressed. I don't understand why. For me, Casablanca is the perfect movie.
Casablanca is a romance, but it is the best kind of romance. Oh, sure, romance can be an ardent emotional attachment or involvement between people; love. In Casablanca we have the same old story of love, love discovered, love lost, and love found. That's Bogey and Bergman. But it's also Bergman and Henreid, the love of devotion and sacrifice. The love that goes beyond the usual suspects of passion, jealousy and hate.
Romance is also a narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds. To that end, the characters of Ugarte, Carl, Sascha, Berger, and even Yvonne, are all romantic heroes, performing heroic or marvelous deeds. None more marvelous perhaps than the largely uncredited woman with the guitar, Corinna Mura.
I like to think you killed a man. It’s the Romantic in me…. That's Claude Rains, trying to pull back the curtain that covers Bogey's past. We never get so much as a glimpse, unless it's when Rick warns Strasser against invading certain sections of New York. That's the romance of mystery and adventure - the mystery of the past and the promise of adventure that will come with the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
And it all remains a mystery to us. We won't know - we'll never know - the part that Victor might play in waking the sleeping Americans. We'll never know the part that Louie and Rick play when they go back to the fight. I imagine Rick - but no, nevermind. That's in my private Casablanca. You will have yours.
That's why it's the perfect movie. It tells us all we need to know of an imaginary moment in a very real time. It gives us more than one definition of love - more than the problems of three little people. In 1942, no one knew how the war would end. Casablanca was a hopelessly romantic vision of hope in a crazy world. It was up to us to imagine the rest of the story. It still is.