Rewinding and replaying pop culture and entertainment

Casablanca

Thu Sep 09, 2010 4:56 pm

I just rewatched "Casablanca" for about the 20th time last night, and was struck by a realization that I had heretofore never experienced: the film is actually a comic book story transferred the film medium.

There's virtually a one-for-one translation of scenes from the film to frames in a comic book. The way the shots are constructed -- tight closeups of Bogey's character's face as he grimaces from the sudden appearance of Ilsa in his life once again -- are straight off the pages of a comic book.

Most telling of all is the highly compressed dialogue that is anything but real life -- comic book writers are constrained by the number of panels and the size of the balloons they can construct over the character's head, so space is at a premium, and dialogue is necessarily clipped in an unrealistic, stylized way. Close your eyes and listen to the dialogue in the film, and you hear what I mean -- it's straight off the pages of a comic book.

"Sin City" is a fascinating exploration of the graphic novel transformed to film; so is "300." They may be highly stylized, but they weren't the first to explore film making in this form.

That's my opinion du jour....

Re: Casablanca

Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:01 pm

I just rewatched "Casablanca" for about the 20th time last night,


That's about how many times I've seen Bob Mitchum's "Thunder Road," only nearly every time I saw TR, was actually in a theater!

Re: Casablanca

Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:06 pm

I just rewatched "Casablanca" for about the 20th time last night


That was probably poorly worded; this would be better:

"Last night, I rewatched "Casablanca" for about the 20th time..."

Re: Casablanca

Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:55 pm

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Man, Casablanca, you come right out of a comic book.

Re: Casablanca

Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:56 pm

Elmo Zoneball wrote:I just rewatched "Casablanca" for about the 20th time last night, and was struck by a realization that I had heretofore never experienced: the film is actually a comic book story transferred the film medium.

There's virtually a one-for-one translation of scenes from the film to frames in a comic book. The way the shots are constructed -- tight closeups of Bogey's character's face as he grimaces from the sudden appearance of Ilsa in his life once again -- are straight off the pages of a comic book.

Most telling of all is the highly compressed dialogue that is anything but real life -- comic book writers are constrained by the number of panels and the size of the balloons they can construct over the character's head, so space is at a premium, and dialogue is necessarily clipped in an unrealistic, stylized way. Close your eyes and listen to the dialogue in the film, and you hear what I mean -- it's straight off the pages of a comic book.

"Sin City" is a fascinating exploration of the graphic novel transformed to film; so is "300." They may be highly stylized, but they weren't the first to explore film making in this form.

That's my opinion du jour....


You may be on to something. At least as far as Wikipedia is concerned:

There are a few dissenting reviewers. According to Pauline Kael, "It's far from a great film, but it has a special appealingly schlocky romanticism..."[68] Umberto Eco wrote that "by any strict critical standards... Casablanca is a very mediocre film." He viewed the changes the characters undergo as inconsistent rather than complex: "It is a comic strip, a hotch-potch, low on psychological credibility, and with little continuity in its dramatic effects."[69]

On the film's 50th anniversary, the Los Angeles Times called Casablanca's great strength "the purity of its Golden Age Hollywoodness [and] the enduring craftsmanship of its resonantly hokey dialogue". The newspaper believed the film achieved a "near-perfect entertainment balance" of comedy, romance, and suspense.

The background of the final scene, which shows a Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior airplane with personnel walking around it, was staged using midget extras and a proportionate cardboard plane.[27] Fog was used to mask the model's unconvincing appearance.[28] Nevertheless, the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida purchased a Lockheed 12A for its Great Movie Ride attraction, and initially claimed that it was the actual plane used in the film.[29

Re: Casablanca

Thu Sep 09, 2010 6:09 pm

Critics ... just remember that art criticism is more designed to divide than to inform.

Re: Casablanca

Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:40 am

saganite wrote:
Elmo Zoneball wrote:I just rewatched "Casablanca" for about the 20th time last night, and was struck by a realization that I had heretofore never experienced: the film is actually a comic book story transferred the film medium.

There's virtually a one-for-one translation of scenes from the film to frames in a comic book. The way the shots are constructed -- tight closeups of Bogey's character's face as he grimaces from the sudden appearance of Ilsa in his life once again -- are straight off the pages of a comic book.

Most telling of all is the highly compressed dialogue that is anything but real life -- comic book writers are constrained by the number of panels and the size of the balloons they can construct over the character's head, so space is at a premium, and dialogue is necessarily clipped in an unrealistic, stylized way. Close your eyes and listen to the dialogue in the film, and you hear what I mean -- it's straight off the pages of a comic book.

"Sin City" is a fascinating exploration of the graphic novel transformed to film; so is "300." They may be highly stylized, but they weren't the first to explore film making in this form.

That's my opinion du jour....


You may be on to something. At least as far as Wikipedia is concerned:

There are a few dissenting reviewers. According to Pauline Kael, "It's far from a great film, but it has a special appealingly schlocky romanticism..."[68] Umberto Eco wrote that "by any strict critical standards... Casablanca is a very mediocre film." He viewed the changes the characters undergo as inconsistent rather than complex: "It is a comic strip, a hotch-potch, low on psychological credibility, and with little continuity in its dramatic effects."[69]

On the film's 50th anniversary, the Los Angeles Times called Casablanca's great strength "the purity of its Golden Age Hollywoodness [and] the enduring craftsmanship of its resonantly hokey dialogue". The newspaper believed the film achieved a "near-perfect entertainment balance" of comedy, romance, and suspense.

The background of the final scene, which shows a Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior airplane with personnel walking around it, was staged using midget extras and a proportionate cardboard plane.[27] Fog was used to mask the model's unconvincing appearance.[28] Nevertheless, the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida purchased a Lockheed 12A for its Great Movie Ride attraction, and initially claimed that it was the actual plane used in the film.[29



Interesting... thanks!

I'd love to see a graphic novel style remake, with lots of pounding sex in place of the craftily worded innuendo in the original dialogue. I nominate Jennifer Aniston (though she's probably too long in the tooth at this stage, so we'll need somebody else, younger and hotter....)

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to play Ilsa

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in the graphic novel style remake. Steve Buscemi

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plays Peter Lorre's part.

Jean Reno

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plays Captain Renault

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J E Freeman

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plays Major Strasser

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And

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Albert Finney

plays

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The Fat Man.

But who should play Mr. Rick?

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Russell Crowe? Brad Pitt? ???? Kevin Spacey!!!!

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Directed by the Coen Brothers.

Dialogue NOT by David Mamet....

Could be entertaining.

Re: Casablanca

Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:46 am

Keep in mind that films then (and even now*) were made using 'story boards' - hundreds of sketches that showed how the script would sequentially be transferred in set-ups to make filming shots - such as a closeup of a face. Much like a comic book.
The thing I like most about Casablanca is the dialogue - a zillion funny and memorable lines.

Check out the film by Coppola's wife called 'Hearts of Darkness'. It's the behind the scenes making of 'Apocalypse Now', and is really interesting. There are lots of scenes with Coppola and Milius and other writers trying to figure out how to translate the Conrad novel into a Viet Name War film.

* When the company I used to work-for did complicated TV ads, the PR agency used story boards produced digitally, that could be rearranged at will, and even animated to some degree - somewhat like editing after a real 'camera film' has been shot.

Re: Casablanca

Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:45 am

A couple of things: By the time "Casablanca" had been made, movies and comic books were already feeding off each other. Many observers have remarked on the so-called “cinematic” qualities of the early Bob Kane “Batman” comics. I suspect most of the influence, though, was upon comics rather than on movies, at least in 1940.

A close examination of all movie dialogue will reveal the sort of telegraphic quality you’ve noted in "Casablanca." Warner Bros films of the period are especially noticeable for this sort of style — listen to the impossibly fast exchange between (Bogart’s) Philip Marlowe and John Ridgely’s Eddie Mars in "The Big Sleep." I find this sort of thing delightful as evidence of the craftsmanship of the film-makers. They have to make you accept the cheating.

There was very, very little time in a film, and still is, for the most part. This is why the best movies, if not written for the screen initially, are adapted from short stories and not novels. Too much must be omitted for a novel to translate well.

No doubt the critics are unimpressed by "Casablanca." They will only become less impressed as time goes by … so to speak. The emotional core of the movie, and really, the reason for watching it, is Rick’s relationship to Elsa. Why did she leave him? What can they possibly have to say to each other now? There’s the tension between Elsa’s duty to and love for her husband, versus her overwhelming romantic attachment to Rick.

What? It's not attacking the decadent capitalist system? The oppressive phallocentric civilization? Must be too superficial to be interesting.

What’s interesting about that is that there is no clear choice for Elsa, something reinforced by the writers’ refusal to tell Ingrid Bergman whom she would choose at the climax of the film. This insured she couldn’t shade her performance one way or the other. Of course, the Epsteins themselves didn’t know how it was going to end. They were writing as the film was produced. (Not an uncommon practice at the time, by the way).

Re: Casablanca

Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:32 am

Gumlegs wrote:A couple of things: By the time "Casablanca" had been made, movies and comic books were already feeding off each other. Many observers have remarked on the so-called “cinematic” qualities of the early Bob Kane “Batman” comics. I suspect most of the influence, though, was upon comics rather than on movies, at least in 1940.

A close examination of all movie dialogue will reveal the sort of telegraphic quality you’ve noted in "Casablanca." Warner Bros films of the period are especially noticeable for this sort of style — listen to the impossibly fast exchange between (Bogart’s) Philip Marlowe and John Ridgely’s Eddie Mars in "The Big Sleep." I find this sort of thing delightful as evidence of the craftsmanship of the film-makers. They have to make you accept the cheating.

There was very, very little time in a film, and still is, for the most part. This is why the best movies, if not written for the screen initially, are adapted from short stories and not novels. Too much must be omitted for a novel to translate well.

No doubt the critics are unimpressed by "Casablanca." They will only become less impressed as time goes by … so to speak. The emotional core of the movie, and really, the reason for watching it, is Rick’s relationship to Elsa. Why did she leave him? What can they possibly have to say to each other now? There’s the tension between Elsa’s duty to and love for her husband, versus her overwhelming romantic attachment to Rick.

What? It's not attacking the decadent capitalist system? The oppressive phallocentric civilization? Must be too superficial to be interesting.

What’s interesting about that is that there is no clear choice for Elsa, something reinforced by the writers’ refusal to tell Ingrid Bergman whom she would choose at the climax of the film. This insured she couldn’t shade her performance one way or the other. Of course, the Epsteins themselves didn’t know how it was going to end. They were writing as the film was produced. (Not an uncommon practice at the time, by the way).


Delightful background material and insights. Thanks.

I find Casablanca to be wickedly entertaining and brutally efficient. The witty interplay of characters foreshadows the same between Spock Bones, and Capt. Kirk in Star Trek. It's simply delightful.

Re: Casablanca

Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:33 am

It is one of my all time favorites.

Re: Casablanca

Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:38 pm

Elmo Zoneball wrote:Delightful background material and insights. Thanks.

I find Casablanca to be wickedly entertaining and brutally efficient. The witty interplay of characters foreshadows the same between Spock Bones, and Capt. Kirk in Star Trek. It's simply delightful.

In his book, "The Great Comic Book Heroes," Jules Feiffer notes that comic book artists of the early forties often discussed the use of "angle shots for their own sake," vs. furthering the plot, and then "we all went back to study 'Citizen Kane.'" (Quoted from memory).

Movies of the period were produced at the height of Hollywood craftsmanship. They're also at the height -- or depths -- of Breen Office censorship. The film was adapted from a play titled, "Everybody Comes to Rick's." In the play, Capt. Renault is much more blatant about selling exit visas to women in exchange for sex. Also, Ilsa's (sexual) affair with Rick in Paris took place while her husband was away, not believed dead.

The ambiguity forced by the censorship, in my opinion, actually makes the film more interesting.

Re: Casablanca

Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:11 pm

Gumlegs wrote:
Elmo Zoneball wrote:Delightful background material and insights. Thanks.

I find Casablanca to be wickedly entertaining and brutally efficient. The witty interplay of characters foreshadows the same between Spock Bones, and Capt. Kirk in Star Trek. It's simply delightful.

In his book, "The Great Comic Book Heroes," Jules Feiffer notes that comic book artists of the early forties often discussed the use of "angle shots for their own sake," vs. furthering the plot, and then "we all went back to study 'Citizen Kane.'" (Quoted from memory).

Movies of the period were produced at the height of Hollywood craftsmanship. They're also at the height -- or depths -- of Breen Office censorship. The film was adapted from a play titled, "Everybody Comes to Rick's." In the play, Capt. Renault is much more blatant about selling exit visas to women in exchange for sex. Also, Ilsa's (sexual) affair with Rick in Paris took place while her husband was away, not believed dead.

The ambiguity forced by the censorship, in my opinion, actually makes the film more interesting.


One of my favorite lines for the film is the result:


Desperate married girl from Bulgaria, without funds needed to buy an exit visa for herself and husband, in a conversation with Rick, as she tries to ascertain if Capt. Renault will uphold his end of the bargain if she has sex with him:

Annina: Monsieur Rick, what kind of a man is Captain Renault?

Rick: Oh, he's just like any other man, only more so.

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