There's no movie like Casablanca. You can find all the ingredients for story greatness in here. Interpersonal tension (off the charts!). Suspense. High stakes that just keep rising. A setting that breathes like a character. An unbeatable antagonistic force, and a personalized villain. Character-driven humor. A romance with believable obstacles. A conclusion both unpredictable and inevitable. Heroes who are selfish and noble at the same time. Sacrifice.
If a Greatest Film of All Time existed, this might be it.
So why doesn't Hollywood make movies like this anymore? Well, occasionally, they still do. Sort of. On the whole, though, most movie buffs will admit, contemporary films tend toward formula. So much so that we can pretty much imagine what would happen if Casablanca had been written and filmed today.
1.) Sympathy for Sex. Rick and Ilsa meet again and ... keep their clothes on. But today, we're supposed to cheer when two characters in love finally consummate their passion. Ilsa's marriage to Victor wouldn't matter. And speaking of Victor ...
2.) Love Triangle Madness. Victor Laszlo risks the most, has the most to lose, suffers the most. In fact, we don't want him to lose Ilsa, because he loves her, and he's a good guy. What writer today would portray him so nobly? He might seem nice at first, but by the end, we'd have to villify him. Why? So we could all cheer when Ilsa broke her vow and left him for her true destiny, the real love of her life. Or, maybe he'd get to be a decent guy. Except that would mean ...
3.) Hard Choice with Consequences? No, Thanks. Victor has to die. Because of course, Ilsa has to end up with Rick. And if Victor doesn't turn out to be shallow or nasty, he needs to be out of the picture altogether. It's magic: Ilsa doesn't have to choose, nobody has to feel bad for cheating. In fact, not even the viewers have to choose Team Victor or Team Rick.
Your turn, fellow readers (and film viewers)! Anybody love Casablanca a tenth as much as I do? Want to add to my list above? Or, recommend to us a classic you're glad has never been remade.