There is a timeless quality about some of the things in our lives. We recognize that quality almost instantly as our minds assign categories to our various experiences. There are some universal examples of this timelessness which are obvious to most; the music of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven; the writings of Shakespeare, a landscape by Monet. Although these examples are drawn from a much larger list, they do reflect my own biases when it comes to things like music, literature, and art. And while I endow this list with certain universal attributes, not everyone would agree with me that every composer, writer, or artist included on the list belongs there. In art, for example, I really like Art Deco; its evocation of the sensual through form and content. It is the art style I most prefer. Others I know are really turned off by it and will not have it in their house.
So it is with movies. In my estimation, the greatest movie ever made is Casablanca. While there is a sizeable group that agrees with me on this, I understand that the movie could be seen to have flaws. What passes for special effects (the obvious paste board background in the opening scenes and the model airplane which makes impossible take offs and landings from Casablanca’s airport) are second rate when compared with higher budget movies of the time and are laughable by today’s standards. But the movie never intended to rely on special effects (a flaw of many current films) and used special effects only to set the stage for the interplay of the actors. The movie succeeds on the strength of its actors and a good plot line.
Every time I watch Casablanca, it is as fresh and new as the first time. That final scene with Bogart and Bergman standing on the tarmac. I identify with Bogart as he (I) nobly convinces Ilsa (Bergman) that she belongs with her husband (“We’ll always have Paris,” he tells her), knowing that I could be as self sacrificing as he is as he sends her off to freedom. Most of us, I think, know the pain of letting something go, something we would really like to have, because we know it doesn’t and can’t belong to us. Not many movies evoke that kind of sympathetic feeling anymore. Not many movies carry me into that never-never land where it is me saying “Here’s looking at you, Kid.”
When Bogart and Bergman and all of the others take you into Rick’s Cafe Americain, into Bogart’s gravelly voice and Bergman’s dreamy eyes, little else matters. For the next hour and a half or so you are captive to one of the greatest movies ever made. Sit back and enjoy. But remember – “A kiss is just a kiss, as time goes by.”