Category Archives: Noirs

Shimmer Lake (2017): A Mystery Told in Reverse

I have yet to see a truly great film that is a Netflix original. Almost always the films go from bad to decent, though this is the first one I’ve seen since “Beats of no Nation” that was truly good. “Shimmer Lake” is very Coenesque in execution but doesn’t quite rise to the farcical comedies that pervades most of the Coen works. It is this lack of humor that really brings it down and keeps it from becoming great, though it is still worth checking out.

The film was directed by Oren Uziel who also wrote the film, while being produced by Adam Saunders and Britton Rizzio.

The story a small town sheriff named Walker who is investigating a bank robbery that involves his brother and two ex-friends. The story is told in reverse.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a small town bank robbery that turns into something bigger (being told from when the crime is done and the outcome to how it came about) is really cool. The setup was a large part of what kept me watching because I was waiting to learn more the different characters and their relationships. Rainn Wilson has so much charisma and I think having him be one of the first characters we meet who is so connected to the incident really strengthened the film.

The Cons: The Point of the Characters – This is a story full of betrayal and reveals, and at times does have comedy and even real drama between characters before many of them go full evil. It is this full range of character actions and types that fail to be a theme that are the largest con of the film. This film needed a focus for the mystery to truly be more than simply good.

I wish there was more to say about this film, but this is a film that doesn’t really have a larger point. It is a thriller and mystery where the catch is how the story is told (mystery in reverse) versus the point and themes of the story. I’m avoiding spoilers since the reveal is one of the few reasons to see this film but I also found that because it lacked a larger farcical bent or any major theme that was consistent across the board makes it a story that I will recommend but do not consider great. This film strives to be a Coen film when it should have sought more of it’s own voice.

Final Score: 8 / 10 A solid mystery.

“Riverdale” Season 1 – A Quality Noir Inspired by Archie Comics

  “Riverdale” is one of the best shows on the CW. This is a show that manages to adapt comic book characters in really creative ways and give them depth and nuance as well as tell an all around fun mystery that is explored over the course of the season. “Archie Comics” comics are comics that I read at different points growing up but I haven’t read the modern stuff, though I’ve heard good things. If it is anything like this show I think I would enjoy the modern stories immensely. Suffice to say, this is the best thing to come out of the CW in some time that isn’t an ongoing show.

The series was created by the creative director of “Archie Comics” Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and producer Greg Berlanti.

The story involves the mystery surrounding the murder of Jason Blossom as the the town of Riverdale reels from the death as secrets are revealed and the characters must find themselves as their own problems and drama begins to consume them.

The Pros: The Premise – I’m a fan of Noirs as the story is narrated by Jughead, one of the main characters who is writing the story of the murder and what unfolds as secrets about himself and his friends are revealed as the mystery is solved.

Riverdale – The location of a small town that is full of dying industries where everyone knows everyone and murder has to be solved is compelling. I like stories like this. It was what made “Broadchuch” interesting and it is the kind of location that breeds interesting drama and characters in stories like this.

The Characters – The characters the best part as we get characters who are multi-faceted. Archie is a player but great at empathy and connecting with others and does grow up, Betty is a perfectionist whose flaws consume her, Veronica is selfish but ends up being one of the most selfless and by contrast Jughead is presented as selfless and an idealist but is also quite selfish and consumed by his own ego. All our characters are contradictions and grow up, even the minor characters are shown to have many layers and it makes the show powerful. I cared about most of the characters in this, which is not something I can say about every show.

The Search for Self – The search for self is a huge theme of the show. Whether it is the Blossom legacy that consumes Cheryl Blossom while facing her own family’s dark present and actions, Archie facing his blue collar background, divorce and love of music that arose out of an affair but the love and passion for music is still there and Betty and Veronica…like Cheryl finding an identity outside of the expectations and corruption of their parents (same goes for Jughead too). This is powerful and the beginnings of these explorations are laid out.

Facing Trauma – Another theme is the theme of trauma as all our characters have experienced it at some point and it is only in opening up and honestly facing it that they have the chance to heal. All our main characters are at different levels of facing this trauma so I’m curious to see where Season 2 takes this given actions happen at the end that will increase it for 2 of our characters.

The Cons: The Love Triangle – I hated the love triangle between Betty, Veronica and Archie. I get it was in the comics but it is the weakest part of this series. I’m glad that we only real deal with it at the beginning and end of the series. Outside of that, I want more character exploration not stupid love triangles that usually only exist for cheap drama.

“Riverdale” is a series I’d highly recommend. It is intelligent and reminds me what I loved about reading the comics. This is a show that captures what it means finding yourself as you grow up and facing the contradictions within yourself. People aren’t simple and are almost always complicated and so much of that is facing the different parts of who we are. “Riverdale” does that with the characters of it’s show and I highly recommend it to both fans of the comics and any fan of good drama and characters.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

 

 

Mulholland Drive (2001): A Delusion, Dream or Alternative Reality Noir Masterpiece

Mulholland Drive

   “Mulholland Drive” was amazing! I tend to be a fan of films that play with the nature of reality and the fact that this happens in the context of a mystery noir where we never quite know which reality is real makes for a whole host of interpretations, all of which have merit and lend strength to the story. It also has the dark that makes David Lynch so fun and has some fantastic acting by the leading actresses.

     The film was directed and written by David Lynch and produced by Neal Edelstein, Tony Krantz, Michael Polaire, Alain Sarde and Mary Sweeney.

    Before the story begins we see a jitterbug competition before we cross onto a silent road where a woman (Laura Harring) is being to Mulholland Drive where is about to be shot. After some teens crash into the car she has no memory and is taken in by Betty (Naomi Watts) an aspiring actress as together they try to figure out who she was. Things are not as they appear to be as we see mysterious forces pressuring a director to a cast a film and changes in reality as the film progresses.

The Pros: The Tone – The tone is dark and mysterious and kicks off with a man being haunted by an unseen force behind a building and this force continues in the words of “Silencio” and a man with a tiny head who controls Hollywood from a stage.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is dark and haunting as well as dreamlike, playing into the themes of dreams, many realities and delusions. Peter Deming did a fantastic job on that.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack compliments the situations really well with some great Spanish Capella, somber instrumentals and of course the jazz feel throughout. Angelo Badalamenti gave great variety to a score that complimented the story really well.

The Characters – The characters are complicated, especially the director, “Rita” and Betty who each have a few different versions of themselves that we see over the course of the film.

The Hitman – A young Mark Pellegrino plays the hitman who Diane pays to kill Camilla and who in the first reality takes out a young actress who was Rita’s roommate. We see him much more active in the first timeline as he messes up an operation to get a black book of info. and ends up having to kill a whole bunch of other people to hide it up. He is good at playing the punk who is out of league and keeps getting into worse situations.

Rita and Camilla – Harring does a great job as the possible former prostitute turned heroine in Rita who is figuring out the world around her and discovers the truth and disappears in the process after finding love with Betty, and Camilla the arrogant premodana who manipulates others for her own ego and amusement. Harring does the two different roles so well.

Betty and Diane – I can see why Naomi Watts won an award for this role. We see her playing roles within roles as she plays characters in scenes as she is applying for parts in Hollywood and we see her as the kind, caring and curious Betty as well as the unstable, angry and broken Diane. Betty’s arc comes full circle at Silencio and Diane’s ends when Silencio is said too as Betty finds peace in her love with Rita and Diane goes insane from a whole bunch of things and takes her own life.

The Interpretations – There are quite a few ways to see what the film is and I’m going to share the interpretations that make the most sense to me.

The Dream – The story is all a dream and nightmare dreamed up by Betty and she is still asleep as all her fears and hopes of having a new life in Hollywood play before her in her mind. We never know if she wakes up or is just jumping between dreams…given the dream jitterbug dream sequence at the beginning and the nightmarish vision at the end with the same people at the end of the Jitterbug opening give credence to this interpretation.

Delusion – The character of Betty is a delusion by the character of Diane who has a crush on Camilla who is getting married to the director. Making Camilla the damsel in distress in her mind was the only way to cope with her situation that eventually lead to her being a prostitute on the streets ready to kill her former friend and lover who had found happiness with another. This is one of the darker ones and the counter to it is the Key and “Silencio” which seem to hint at other realities.

Alternate Realities – There is a supernatural element that pervades the story, from the man behind the building to any seen in Hollywood where we see unhinged characters with power and no people skills who are capable of destroying livelihood. This element is true through both realities making me think that Diane and Camilla are one reality that is true and that the Rita and Betty romance also happened and is true as well but we leave that reality when Rita opens the box to the reality where Camilla and Diane are. I liked this one the best as the mystery is still there and it doesn’t forget the strange forces we’ve seen at work from the beginning of the production.

  If you like David Lynch or Noirs, chances are you will really enjoy this film. It is a favorite and I liked it more than “Eraserhead” which was a really good film. This film was great at exploring the mind and the themes of illusion, dreams and realities are hard to pull off, but Lynch does so seamlessly. The actresses are amazing too and I really like Rita’s and Betty’s romance as it had so much richness to it as they grew together. This contrasted by the second reality gave the first one strength and gave room for interpretations, which I liked. I tend to like films with clearer answers, but this one was great in how open it was and how it truly let the viewer decide what happened.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Brazil (1985): A Brilliant Surrealist Dystopian Satire of Bureaucracy

Brazil Poster

We continue Revolution Week with a film that has after today become a favorite…”Brazil.” Terry Gilliam is truly a master of surrealism and satire as well as creating films with so many intricacies and layers. It is easy to relate this film to revolution because it represents everything being rebelled against. It is a static world but the characters are not static. There is a fight change things and characters change as they are put through trials both figurative and real.

This was my second time seeing the film. First time I just didn’t get it. It was wierd, tonally inconsistent and too long I felt like. After a second time seeing it, since last time I saw it was in college, my views have changed. Some of those issues still stand but there are a hell of a lot more ways how it is brilliant and works.

The film was directed by Terry Gilliam who also was one of the writers. The other writers of the screenplay were Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown. The film was produced by Arnon Milchan.

The premise is that Sam Lowry (Jonathan Price) is a low level government employee fantasizing about being free in fantasy dream who is pulled into events that soon change him though as he has to rectify an error that occurred that led to the government executing an innocent man. From here the story unfolds as the revolutionary Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro) (the man supposed to have been killed) uses his home as a base and Buttle’s neighbor Jill Layton (Kim Greist) seeks justice for what the government did.

The Pros: The World – The World is a surrealist representation of our own. With old ladies getting face lifts, government bureaucracy where papers rain down from the walls and a faceless police force breaking into homes…all over a consumer driven society obsessed with wealth. It is a brilliant exaggeration of the problems in our own and satire at it’s finest.

The Government – The government in this world cares more about the “Right way” to do things and the documents to sign and agencies to visit rather than people. We see this in how Jill is unable to get the right documents to get money for the Buttles or to hold anyone accountable. The government is all about personal connections too, since Sam’s Mom knows someone higher up Sam is able to get the promotion into Information Retrieval which helps him to save Jill when he learns Information Retrieval via his “friend” Jack is targeting all those connected to the government mistake.

The Rebels – Tuttle is our greatest glimpse of the rebels and they like society are mad. They do small things and also big things like setting off bombs in public places. They are also human too, as witnessed by Tuttle being one of the few people who actually treats Sam like a human being. They do have issues though, all the attacks we see happen in public places and is largely innocents killed, which is probably why the government is still in power. In order to have a successful revolution you have to win the heart of enough of the people.

Jack – Jack is the torturer and assassin for the government and was the one who killed Buttle and is now killing everyone attached to him. Everyone knows what he does too as his daughter is in the room with him where he had a doctor’s outfit covered in blood. He is a family man and does try and protect people he must care about to some degree, but he is also a cog and disconnects himself by wearing a baby mask when he tortures people and forcing them to not see him as a person.

Harry Tuttle – Harry is the revolutionary and the one who saves Sam at one point. To Sam he represents freedom and letting go of all he was attached to that was crushing him in his work (“Fight Club” style) but is also a real human being as we see him interact with people beyond Sam. He connects to those who help him but clearly doesn’t care about the masses. He is selfish in that he is mostly looking after himself, even if he is fighting the system. De Niro is fantastic.

Jill Layton – Jill is the activist and goes through all levels of government to try and get justice for Buttle. She doesn’t succeed but ends up finding an ally in Sam who she at first hates but later when she learns he was right about the injustice of the government joins with him as they are both on the run. She is killed when Sam is captured sadly. Kim Greist does a good job.

Sam Lowry – This is the best role I’ve seen Jonathan Price in. He plays the government worker just trying to live day to day by living in a fantasy half the time, to the fugitive and also the rebel to some degree as he holds out against in the torture in his mind and doesn’t give in or reveal Buttle to Jack and the government. The price is he goes mad and lives in his fantasy, which gives him a very bittersweet end…considering this could have gone “1984” and turned him into someone who is all about the government and right way to do things…as he was at the beginning of the film.

The Dream – There are two dreams. The dream where Sam is saving Jill from an enemy, in one it’s a Giant Samurai…and one where he is rescued by Tuttle who he destroys the government building with. He later ends up at his Mom’s friend’s funeral, is hunted by the government and watches Tuttle be devoured by government documents before he is rescued by Jill. This is his ending after his mind breaks.

The Message – The message is in the satire. Obsessing over things like wealth, body and items make it easy for a corrupt, inept and controlling system to take control. This makes sense as people in a state of complacency don’t care. The message of the film is to wake up and do something that matters. Try to change things and notice the problems in the systems around you. It is a powerful and great message.

Okay: The Cogs of the Machine – Most of the government employees don’t feel like real people. Besides Jack, none of them felt fully fleshed out. They were just that, cogs which may have been the point but it’s why I can’t put them as a pro.

The Everyday People – The everyday people are the same way. We see glimpses of connections and life, such as the family celebrating Christmas together before the government arrives to arrest the father…but beyond that we don’t really get to know the people beyond Jill and Harry.

The Cons: Confusion – The dream sequence at the end was a bit confusing until the reveal, and there were parts in the middle that were the same way too. This limited the power of the message in my opinion.

Too Long at Times – There were times the film dragged…for example some of the dream sequences that Sam has with enemies like the Giant Samurai and others were cool, but they really did go on for too long.

This isn’t my favorite Terry Gililam film, that is still “The Fisher King,” but this one is truly amazing and a well deserved Cult Classic. It satirizes problems relevant to our time and does a call to action in the process, which is really the basis for the act of revolt and revolution. Revolutions are about facing a problem and through struggle seeking to change it. This movie is how one person failed at that and how sometimes the means can be truly bad as well. Suffice to say, I recommend this film.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great, even with the problems I have with it.

Sin City (2005): The Struggle for Justice in a City with None

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Frank Miller’s Sin City Comic Series is one I have always been meaning to check out. His style is very distinct and he is good at capturing the feel of a dark noir. This was true in The Dark Knight Returns, and definitely true in this film which follows the style of the comics. A big reason that inspired my reviewing of this film, beyond wanting to watch it, is the fact that “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is coming out and I want to see and review it as well.

The style the film was done in was also like a comic book, beyond the visuals. There is “The Customer is Always Right” Parts 1 and 2, “The Yellow Bastard” Parts 1 and 2, “The Hard Goodbye” and “The Big Fat Kill.” All are loosely connected as you see characters from “The Yellow Bastard” in “The Big Fat Kill” and “The Hard Goodbye” but that is the only connection, each story arc stands on it’s own and reveals a new part of the corruption that is Sin City. A city of corrupt cops, priests, politicians, serial killers and mobsters…with only the heroes of each of the stories to stand against them.

“Sin City” was written, directed and produced by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, as well as also produced by Elizabeth Avellan. For the reviews I’ll do each story individually and afterwords a final score at the end, so that all of the anthology is covered.

Also, before I get into the review, I want to say this is some of the best stylized cinematography and directing I’ve seen in a film. Robert Rodriguez did a really good job creating the comic book feel in a movie and using it fully capture the tone and feel of the world.

Here is the assessment of the film:

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“The Customer is Always Right” Parts 1 and 2

“The Customer is Always Right” is how we kick off the anthology as a woman is looking at escaping and the Salesman is there to help. He kisses her and shoots her and talks about how he’ll never know what she was running from.

Part 2 picks up with an injured Becky (who we meet in “The Big Fat Kill”) is talking with her mom but stops when the salesman says her name and offers her a cigarette.

The Pros: I like the mystery behind it and also the stark cruelty of how it sets off the world of Sin City. We never know if the Salesman was paid to kill her or if she meant something different by escape.

Cons: I wanted to know more about the Customer and what her motivations were as well as her connection to the Salesman, since she recognized him when he says her name.

Final Score: 8 / 10

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“The Yellow Bastard” Parts 1 and 2

Part 1 of “The Yellow Bastard” has aging police officer John Hartington (Bruce Willis) doing one last thing before he goes. The corrupt senators son who is a serial killer named Roark Junior (Nick Stahl) from killing a young girl named Nancy Callahan (Mackenzie Vega) when he shoots Roark Junior his partner turns on him (Michael Madsen). Haritagan knocks out his partner Bob and chases after Roark Junior. He manages to reach him and shoots off his ear, hand and genitals before Bob returns and shoots him in the back as sirens arrive.

Part 2 picks up with Hartigan in the hospital being framed by Hartigan for his son’s murders and being beaten until he confesses. He refuses to confess until Roark Junior tricks him by taking one of the letters that Nancy was sending him while in prison, leading him to believe that Nancy is in trouble. He confesses and is released and finds Nancy (Jessica Alba) is now working as a dancer in the bar. The mysterious yellow bastard than arrives on the scene and over the course of the chase and eventual capture of Nancy by him we discover he is Roark Junior who was mutated in the growing back of his ears, hand and genitals. It is here Nancy keeps from screaming which prevents him from killing her and Hartigan arrives and kills him. He than has Nancy leave and kills himself so the corrupt senator Roark will stop hunting Nancy.

Pros: The Acting – Alba, Stahl and Willis do a great job in this. Each of them is so open in their roles (Alba as Nancy who fell in love with the one who saved her, Willis as the bitter cop and Stahl as the serial killer). Each of them is interesting to watch as they drive the plot forward in different ways.

The Story – I liked the story in this one, it was clear and followed the dark theme of Sin City. Hartigan only is able to win by confessing to dark crimes he didn’t commit and in the end has to die anyway to protect the woman he loves. It is also realistic in how Roark Junior becomes more crazy and Nancy becomes a fighter, who is both trained to fight and helps Hartigan take out Roark Junior.

Con: Feels almost too short.

Final Score is 9 / 10

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“The Hard Goodbye”

“The Hard Goodbye” follows the story of Marv (Mickey Rourke) and how Goldy the woman he had a one stand with, was killed the same night. He than goes on a killing spree to find the man who did it. This leads him to get help from his parole officer Lucille (Carla Gugino), whose drugs help stop him from seeing things. Eventually, after questioning he comes to the farm where Kevin (Elijah Wood) the cannibal has captured Lucille and has the heads of his past victims mounted on the wall. He and Lucille escape but Lucille is gunned down on orders from Cardinal Roark (Rutger Hauer). Marv escapes into Old Town and learns the mysterious woman is Wendy. The Prostitutes who run Old Town support Marv once they learn about Kevin and Cardinal Roark. It is than Wendy and Marv go to take out Kevin and finally Roark who says he and Kevin did it to eat away their sins. After he returns, Wendy says that Marv can call her Goldy and is there before the state executes him for the killing of the Cardinal.

Pros: The Tone – This one is the creepiest of them, as Lucille’s hand was eaten in front of her by Kevin and Kevin has long nails that cut. Rutger Hauer is a great baddy too and is completely mad. Marv not being able to escape at the end and Lucille being gunned down by the police when she was an officer herself.

The Story – I like the story, the twist of Wendy being the sister worked well and the depths of the darkness in Sin City where revealed slowly over time so that when Kevin and Cardinal Roark are revealed it has the needed effect.

Okay: The Acting – Not the best acting, Mickey Rourke is good but Wendy isn’t all that memorable and Lucille should have been given more to do. It was hard to gauge her talent in what little time we had with her. Elijah Wood and Rutger Hauer were fantastic as the baddies though, best ones in the film for sure.

Final Score is 9 / 10

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“The Big Fat Kill”

“The Big Fat Kill” begins with Shelley (Brittany Murphey) being harrased by her ex-boyfriend Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro) until her new boyfriend Dwight (Clive Owen) water boards him in the toilet. He than sees that they are looking for trouble so follows them to Old Town. It is there they are harassing Becky (Alexis Bledel) until Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her girls arrive on the scene and execute Jackie Boy and his friends before they can hurt Becky. It is here we learn that Dwight and Gail are former lovers. It is here they learn Jackie Boy was a Detective and that this could create war between Old Town and the Police so Dwight goes to leave the body in the Tar Pits but all are attacked by Wallenquist who Becky had gone too for protection. He plans to conquer Old Town so sent his enforcer Manute (Michael Clark Duncan). A standoff happens but ends when Dwight trades Jackie Boy’s head for Gail and armed the head to explode which leads to the mob enforcers getting killed. From here we see Dwight and Gail re-establishing their love affair and love of battle.

Pros: The Acting – This one had the best acting, minus Brittany Murphey. Clive Owen was fantastic in this role, as was Alexis Bledel, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro and Michael Clark Duncan. We get to know all their characters and can understand their motivations as their is peace in Old Town but it only hangs by a thread. We see the threat of the Mob in the background now too and the Mob knows not to mess with Old Town.

The Tone – At one point Dwight has a conversation with dead Jackie Boy, which establishes the fear factor and the race against time that Dwight is up against. It is creepy and cool, as are the scenes between Manute and Gail.

The Politics – Establishes the power brokers of the Mob, Old Town and the Police and the relationship between the three groups. With the coups and Old Town Prostitutes respecting each others areas and the Mob trying to start a war between them and capture more territory.

The Story – This one had the best of the stories in my opinion, I just wish it had ended differently. It ended with a celebration of slaughter when so much of the story had been introspective. I wish the introspectiveness had not been lost.

Okay: The Ending – The final scene on the battlefield re-establishes Gail and Dwight as a couple but goes on a bit too long. I would have liked them to have some lines to end it. I guess that is why Becky meeting the Salesman happened after, it kept that tone going.

Score is 9.5 / 10

So how does “Sin City” hold up? It is a little long at times, but for exploring the world that is Sin City, it does a fantastic job. We meet the major characters, we get the rules of this world, and most of the characters have complete character arcs (though many of the female character arcs remain incomplete). The Cinematography is also some of the best I have ever seen. After seeing it I am excited for “A Dame to Kill For” as it will help us to understand this world more and re-establish old threats while introducing new. I would say this isn’t for everyone, but if you like stylized dark noirs or mystery anthologies, this is worth checking out. Definitely one of my favorite films after today.

Final Score for the film is 9 / 10. It is solidly really good.

Casablanca (1942): An Amazing Story of Love in a Time of War

Casablanca

       “Casablanca,” is a film I always caught at the wrong time, every time it was on, so much was going on already so the movie was always in the background and usually remained unfinished by the time I would leave. “Casablanca,” is a fascinating film, considering it was completed when World War 2 was still going on. The Nazis still occupied a lot of Europe and it was unknown who would be victorious in the end. The screenplay itself is based off a play called “Everybody Comes to Rick’s,” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. The fact that they were writing from a time where history remained unwritten gives the present of the story so much life. 

   “Casablanca,” was directed by Michael Curtiz and is the story of Rick (Humphrey Bogart) who owns a saloon in Nazi occupied Casablanca in the French Morocco. He is a pretty selfish guy whose perspective changes when a former lover named Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) re-enters his life with her fascist resisting husband Victor Laszlo…from here the story unfolds as politics between factions arise as the drama unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Music – God I love the music in this. From “As Time Goes By,” to the orchestra pieces and the jazz…you feel like you are in Casablanca and the music always fits what is going on. I could listen to this soundtrack for days and plan on using it to inspire my own writing. Max Steiner is fantastic.

The Cinematography – The cinematography captures the cramped feel of the bazaar, the open feel of Rick’s saloon and the noir feel of the ending in the escape sequence intermixed with the backstabbing and double dealing.

Rick Blaine – Humphrey Bogart owns this role and creates a compelling character who we never know if he is selfish and all about the money…or still the idealist at heart that brought him to Europe in the first place to fight the fascist governments as a mercenary. We see his complexity through his relationships, from Sam who is his piano player at the saloon to the French Captain Louis Renalt and Isla and her husband Laszlo (as well as smaller smuggler characters too), they  each reveal parts of his selfish and selfless side as the story goes on.

Isla Lund – What would you do if you believed your husband to be dead and fell in love with another? This is Isla’s dilemma as her romance with Rich in Paris occurs when she has believed for some time that Laszlo is dead. Also Laszlo loves the cause more than he loves her and Rick loves her. This is an interesting choice and she only gives up her agency to Rick at the end when he tells her he’ll need her to to help her and Laszlo escape. Ingrid Bergman is amazing in the role and gives us a complex character who makes her own path in a situation where it is difficult to do just that.

Sam – Dooley Wilson is the connection to Rick and Isla and is a character with a lot of awareness. He tries to talk Rick out of dredging up the past and tries to help him and Isla move on even as they use him as a tool to express their feelings of love lost in the song he plays, “As Time Goes By,” he is a great singer and the only downside is I wish he’d played more of a part after the First Act. After his attempts fail, he just kind of exists as the piano player.

Louis Renalt – I love this character. He is the kind of character I love watching in television shows…characters who are a shade of grey but when they sell themselves as truly selfish it is believable because of how charming they are and how they do what is asked of them…though with always an added twist. Claude Rains is my favorite minor character and I’d have watched the movie it was just about him and how the events of the story change him or force him to reveal where his true loyalties are.

The Dialogue – Reveals the distinct personalities of the characters and helps show events rather than tell events. The best example of this is when we see Isla and Rick’s time and Paris and how the romance happens. It is subtle and the lines show how each of them are hiding their past but want to be together with what they can give…as well as Isla’s leaving where you know there is more going on, but until Laszlo’s reveal…we don’t know what that thing is.

The Reveal – Renault sets up a Nazi officer being sent to the airplane where Isla and Laszlo will be escaping but the Nazi Officer is killed by Rick who is fighting for them. His choosing to fight for Isla and a higher cause of the resistance is the big reveal as well as Renault being sympathetic and joining with Rick to go and fight the Nazis.

The Message – Love is greater than romance, there are ideals greater than the individual and the theme of solidarity in resistance. Love is greater than romance in that Rick gets over his wish to be with Isla and lets her leave with her husband telling her “We’ll always have Paris.” He has finally gotten past himself and sees that if they were together it would involve hurting her (letting Laszlo get caught) in the process. The other part is when he kills the Nazi officer and re-devotes himself to fighting the fascists. Renault joins him in this and they decide to join the French Resistance. There are also the themes of solidarity in the singing of “Viva la France,” against the Nazi’s nationalist anthem and Rick helping a Bulgarian couple escape by letting the husband win in his gambling so they’ll have the funds to travel to America. There are others as well, but this theme is pervasive and makes the film even stronger.

Okay: The Nazi Officers – They are just kind of there, but exist mostly as a threat. I never felt like they were fully fleshed out in regards to their motivations. Sure they get lines, but there aren’t any characters like the S.S. Officer in “Inglorious Bastards.” They serve their role, but are pretty replaceable.

Victor Laszlo – I really wanted to like this character. He is a resistance fighter with a compelling backstory (fought for the Czech and other resistances in Europe against the Nazis) is put in a concentration camp and escapes, and he forgives Isla for cheating on him. The actor just doesn’t make his character greater than his role though. He is there to be the face of the resistance and love of a cause (he’d leave if he got the chance and leave Isla if it meant continuing the fight), but he just isn’t as compelling as Isla and Rick. I wish we’d heard more about what he went through, we can really only guess based off what we know.

The Length – This movie at times feels long. This is good for building tension, but sometimes can drag. This isn’t a con though since I love all the time with the characters…it just needs to be addressed since it isn’t a pro. It would have been a pro if it didn’t feel long.

     This is one of my all time favorite films after tonight and one I intend to watch again in the future. There is a reason it won 3 Academy Awards and why it is recognized as one of the classics. It’s themes are timeless, it’s characters are great and the music is some of the best from any movie. It is a near perfect film and reminds us of the things worth living and dying for. I can’t recommend this film enough.

My final Score for the film is 9.8 / 10.