The Cinamatography of Casablanca

February 04, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Every once in a while something comes along to slow me down and bring me to a complete stop. As of this writing it is the flu that’s responsible. My activities are near non existent, however I do turn to Television as a distraction. I treated myself to a late night double feature; Casablanca followed by The Maltese Falcon. These two movies are high on my all time favorite list. In this post I would like to briefly share a few points about my number one film of all time, Casablanca.

 

Casablanca is a 1942 romantic drama directed by Michael Curtiz. It was officially released in early 1943. No one involved with its production expected it to be anything out of the ordinary. It was just one of hundreds of pictures released by Hollywood during the years of World War two. The story is centered around Rick Blaine, (Humphrey Bogart), a man caught in a tug of war between love and virtue.

 

The Cinematographer, Arthur Edeson did a masterful job with his camera. Photographers use a well worn phrase, "the camera loves you". This was never more true with Mr. Edeson's camera and Ingrid Bergman. Most of the tight shots of Ingrid Bergman were from the left side of her face. It was said she preferred this angle. He used a gauze filter for softening, with care to get the catch lights in her eyes to sparkle. This is Film Noir at its best. In my opinion, his masterful use of the camera and lighting all come together in the Airport scene. Classically composed, wonderful lighting, and great mood dominate this section of the film. Ms. Bergman's face, with skin as smooth as a glass of milk, eyes filled with tears, and full of sadness, tenderness, nostalgia, its all there for Mr. Edeson's lens to capture. We see the airplane warming up in a background filled with fog, and Humphrey Bogart choosing virtue over love. All portrayed in a rich pallet of Black and White film. It does not get much better than this.

 

We are enjoying an era where digital capture and post production literally put magic in our hands. Anything our minds can conjure we can make happen. We have the ability to walk on water, and set it on fire if we want. We are in some ways like children with a new toy, fascinated by all that is possible. Many of the offerings available to us in the movies are full of examples of amazing visuals that rivet our attention and keep our eyes on the screen and are fun to watch. There will come a time when we will find it very difficult to keep raising the special effects bar. We'll keep asking ourselves how do we up the impact even more, for a public that expects even more with every release. Someone will come along, perhaps the next Arthur Edeson and merge strong emotion, great composition, riveting photography, and great special effects, and produce a masterpiece where all these elements come together in a balanced composition. We will have matured to the point where we want to feel real emotion and be drawn into the narrative, see ourselves in the characters on film, and are totally absorbed into the photography, and where special effects do not dominate the story but enhance it. We play out our cultural mythology on the silver screen. If a round table of Psychologist could deconstruct our cultural, mental and emotional landscape we'd be enlightened, with the things we value, based upon the contents of the cinema we love. Until then, "Here's looking at you kid!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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