We’ll always have Paris

The point of re-releasing films lie on the basis of improving on; giving a different perspective of the movie or in the case of Casablanca: to celebrate its 70 year anniversary. The purpose of re-releasing a movie that was first released during the Second World War is hard to justify, especially considering that it was aired on the BBC only last Christmas. What would be better is if Warner Brothers put out a 3D version, like the release of The Phantom Menace or Titanic, with Bogart’s cigarette smoke projecting and filling up the air in the cinema auditorium.  Or maybe a director’s cut or redux ala Apocalypse Now, or Bladerunner, with alternate endings and added scenes. At least have it in colour mate!

Reruns of Bona Fide classics are big business. Casablanca was already last on our screens back in 2007 for its 65th anniversary where it made £100,000 at the UK box office, which is comparable to the receipts of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia or Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights. Park Circus; distributor of movie is confident that this time round it would do even better as it release (out now) coincides with St Valentine’s Day.

Instead of giving you a long ass review (which you won’t read) of this great movie, I will sum it up in one sentence then provide you a character study of the second best character in the movie. Casablanca is the most enduring and the most romantic film ever made, and if you don’t think so then you is a fool.

Casablanca is out now at selected cinemas nationwide

 Thank you for reading:

CAPTAIN RENAULT CHARACTER STUDY (as played by Claude Rains)

Rick

And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.
Captain Renault

That is my least vulnerable spot.

Captain Renault is the head of the police force in Vichy controlled Casablanca. He is a man who enjoys power and the trappings that come with it. As a part of Vichy controlled France, his collaboration with the Nazis is not fuelled by his allegiance to them, but by what is best for him and his position. He will inherently follow any side which will reap the most benefits.

In Rick (Humphrey Bogart) he has found a quasi kindred spirit; a neutral who like himself supposedly sticks his neck out for no one. This fondness may lie in the fact that Rick lets him win at gambling in his cafe or maybe because Rick just fascinates him. When he enquires about Rick’s past, having found out that he ran guns in Ethiopia and fought on the Spanish civil war for the loyalists’ side Rick replies that he got well paid on both occasions. Renault answers back that the other side would have paid him better; this reply is important in identifying his character’s ultimate motivation.

Yet Renault is extremely shrewd in his observations and seems to always have his finger on the pulse. Even though he is in the pocket of the Nazis, he remarks to Major Strasser not to underestimate American blundering, for he knows that Rick is a much smarter man than the Major. He has seen it all before and he knows how to play the game.

Renault is a spineless stooge who would do anything to make his life more agreeable. This is best demonstrated each time the pressure is put on him by Nazi officer Major Strasser, like when he is forced to close down Rick’s cafe because of illegal gambling; even though he already knew that there is gambling going on because he gambled there. Or indeed the Laszlo situation; in which even though he befriends Lazlo he is not hesitant in arresting him when Laszlo tries to flee.

His abuse of power and lack of ethics reaches lower than just gambling. A self confessed corrupt official, his actions although extremely appalling is met with shameless wit. Like when it is informed to Victor Laszlo that Ugate is dead, Renault declares “I am making out the report now. We haven’t quite decided yet whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape.” He also has no shame in forcing desperate girls to sleep with him in exchange for an exit visa.

So when a Bulgarian girl wants a visa so her and her husband can immigrate to America she is prepared to sleep with Renault in order to do so. Her sacrifice is prevented by Rick who rigs the roulette table for her husband to win so they are both able to afford it. Renault’s take on Rick’s action is this: that someday women will be scarce and that it was extravagant for Rick to “[throw] away women like that”.

Although Renault is an extremely shady character in a movie that is overloaded in sentimentality his character is a brilliant nuanced observation of human nature and he is an allegory of France’s role during World War2. The romance which lies at the heart of the film is supplemented by the bromance between himself and Rick at least 60 years before Appatow started doing it. The spoiler alerted ending where Renault first rats out Rick to the Major, then covers for him (“round up the usual suspects”) after Rick kills Strausser is a superb twist but ultimately contradictory nature of the captain.  Rick’s good deeds have finally rubbed off on him. The start of a beautiful friendship indeed.

Captain Renault

Ricky, I’m going to miss you. Apparently you’re the only one in Casablanca with less scruples than I.


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4 comments

  1. Nice post about a great movie and one of the only black and white movies I own, I enjoyed Renault as a character and I think you covered him pretty nicely. And welcome to the LAMB!

    1. the only black and white you own? man there is a big wide world of great films in black and white! thank you for the kind words, renault is a detestable man but he is perhaps the the cynically funniest thing in that film. thank you again

      1. There’s a lot more that I have watched and enjoyed, but Casablanca has been the only one that pushed it over the top to make me want to own it. I also used to own Dr. Strangelove which is a good movie, but not one I saw myself rewatching very many times.

      2. fair enough! if you do like only one b&w casablanca is a worthy choice. remember watching strangeglove for the first time and not really getting it but the second time i appreciated its deadpan humour, one of my favourites from kubrick

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