Lizzi Von DooLittle (vondoolittle) wrote,
Lizzi Von DooLittle

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Casablanca: Narrative and Genre Essay 'Plan' (have I got this right?)

Narrative and Genre


Cultural Historical Context of Cas:

1940’s – wartime setting and topical to real life events at the time. WWII.
The place itself was topical – the films values engage with the real world situ – patriotism, morality. Wartime footage in some sequences esp flashback scene and intro – tanks etc – invasion/occupation of Paris a year previous.

1942 release, though setting is Dec 1941 Casablanca in French-ruled Morocco. Waiting place before transit to Lisbon in neutral Portugal for passage to America – representing hopes of a better future.

Scene to use: first discussion about Victor Lazlo in Rick’s office with Louis Renault.

Begin focus on scene with Louis (Claude Rains) telling Rick about arrival of Ilse and Lazlo to Casablanca – sets up an introduction of the characters who are going to be the cause of change in the film and also in Casablanca itself. The arrival of these two to Cas are a catalyst in the futures of all of those in the film, esp. Rick.

Digging up the past – Ilse and Rick’s relationship in Paris whilst Lazlo was presumed dead – the moral decision at the end as she is married to Lazlo – Rick ‘I stick my neck out for no man’ – but he begins on their arrival to give in to sentimental side over several issues inc. substory about Bulgarian couple – preventing the wife from sleeping with Renault in order to get exit visas for herself and husband by cheating with the gambling instead – fixing the roulette wheel – and taking control of Lady Luck for a moment. In all cases, Rick appears to lose out – eventually losing the girl, the bar (selling it to Ferrarri) and his place in Casablanca.

What does the scene come after:

Setting up of situation with voiceover introducing Casablanca (f noir style) – showing refugee route with maps, footage, putting in context. Moving into setting up of scene – war office – death of 2 german couriers.

‘round up all suspicious characters’ = refugees/immigrants without legal papers

Plane flying over Ricks is first example of foreshadowing ending of film.
Arrival of Strasser to Casablanca. Introduction of Capt. Louis Renault to Strasser and to audience – a slightly independent French police officer who will not entirely comply with german rulings.

Introduction of Ricks’ bar – Sam at the piano (It had to be you) – whilst business to get exit visas goes on illicitly at tables and gambling is going on in the back rooms – to first meeting with Rick – Ugarte gives him the new exit visas stolen from the dead germans to ‘look after’.

Exit Visas = Maguffin.

Sam’s ‘Knock on Wood’ – exit visas are hidden in the piano.

Ferrari is turned down on his offer of buying Rick’s bar - ‘not for sale at any price’

(except later for the love of a woman)

Yvonne – sets Rick up as having had ladies in his past – she is sent away which illustrates Ricks grouchy side – bitter with women – unlucky in love (lady luck)

Meeting with Henri as plane to Lisbon (foreshadowing) flies overhead – lighting/movement of plane watchtower = nods at film noir style

‘combination of all three’ – cynical – example of dry wit in character

Rick enters bar – ‘baby face’ – planning of Ugartes arrest for murder – staged for ‘amusement’ there rather than the Blue Parrot.

‘I stick my neck out for nobody’.

Follows on to SCENE:

Notes on genre: shadow – rick at closet safe – bars of windowblinds projected on back wall. Half light.

Introduction of Victor Lazlo (the outlaw in noir) ‘he has succeeded in impressing half the world’. Explains his history of dramatic chase from concentration camp across Europe and down to Cas – how the germans are after him.

Betting (lady luck) on whether or not Lazlo will escape – the police gambling? Further corruption also part of f noir style. Travelling with a highly attractive lady.

Reminding of Ricks sentimental side with previous dealings in other wars/uprisings.

‘gestapo spank’ – lazlo will not leave.

What follows? (Plot summary/narr structure)

Plot duration is 3 days and 3 nights in Casablanca, flashback to a year ago in Paris when Ilse had an affair with Rick, believing Lazlo to be dead – ending with nazi occupation of Paris and standing Rick up at the train platform so he has to leave by himself.

Conflict – Rick – love vs values
Ilse – Rick vs Lazlo
Overall – German vs French/Free man
Maguffin – papers to Lisbon

Dramatic Arrest of Ugarte – exit visas therefore fall into Ricks possession as a bargaining tool throughout rest of film. Rick stands and watches as Ugarte is taken away – reiteration of ‘I stick my neck out…’

Victor and Ilse arrive – Ilse’s memory of Rick first indicated with ‘Play it, Sam’
Rick recollects (of all the gin joints…)

Flashback sequence (very f noir) montage of Rick’s memories of Paris – romance with Ilse – how much they were in love – rain on letter – shows how he is bitter.


see extra printout for continuance.

Casablanca falls loosely into film noir - borrowing elements but not all of it as a style.
Film noir = moody, cynical and amoral - or searching for a sense of morality.
eg. Rick is all of the above - in a place where exit visas have to be obtained by fraudulent means, there are corrupt officials, gambling.

Ilse/Lazlo/Rick love triangle - having to be resolved with a MORAL decision by Rick (Hero/Outlaw).
Rick is cast as being outside the law - but not entirely an outlaw - he is, however, an alienated man. Ricks conflict over love vs virtue - he must 'do the right thing' by helping Victor Lazlo escape and continue his work as resistance leader against the Nazis - Lazlo is the true outlaw, Ilse is the woman that drives him - a femme fatale, but not the vicious sort.

Overall genre of cas is drama/romance - but STYLE is film noir - or at least borrows elements of as thematically can be taken as a positive statement of life in america, since they are all trying to get there. Not sure that this view is entirely conveyed as Rick ( the hero) doesn't seem to think America so fantastic.

Another element of noir is lighting - and Curtiz has a partic. use of shadows, bar lighting, lighting on faces -soft light on Ilse etc - Bogart also assoc with Noir which spanned this period in Hollywood movie making.

F Noir is NOT a genre - it is mood, style, point of view and tone of film - things which, in Casablanca, are conveyed very well for the context of the period.

(IN THE SCENE - to illustrate)

Overall, consistent use of deep focus, wide-angle lens, night for night photography and low key lighting. Convoluted manners of flashbacks (romance in Paris), narration (start of film) and displaced time sequences.

Themes of Cas: Difficulty of neutrality - Louis and Rick
Inescapable past - Rick and Ilse
Power of Lady Luck - gambling and escape from germans

Film noir was coined to describe Hollywood films of 40s/50s which portrayed the dark and gloomy underworld of crime and corruption - films whose heroes as well as villains are cynical, disillusioned (rick with love) and often insecure loners (running a bar) unable to escape the past (Ilse) and are unsure/apathetic about the future (until he's told by llse that he has to be the one to make decisions - turning point scene in his apt)

Film noir was originally influenced by influx of immigrant dirs (and their germ expr style) from central europe and sobering effects of WWII. Curtiz was hungarian.



*sounds her barbaric yawp and runs for college*

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