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Author Topic: Casablanca Dissonance  (Read 510 times)

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Offline RaveledTopic starter

Casablanca Dissonance
« on: January 14, 2010, 01:20:56 PM »
Through Netflix, I've been slowly increasing my knowledge of old classic movies, and last night I finally got to Casablanca.  Thinking back on it today, I've noticed a stark dissonance surrounding the character of Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Rains.  In the movie, Captain Renault admits repeatedly to being a self-serving crony.  Once he says that "[he] blows with the wind," and he's constantly seen aiding the Nazis in the city.  In one scene it's intimated that he's forcing a married woman to sleep with him to get travel visas for her husband and herself, and when the plan is scuttled by Rick (Humphrey Bogart) Renault specifically warns him that the same sort of thing is going to happen tomorrow night and Rick had best not interfere.  Even towards the climax of the movie, it is Captain Renault who calls the Nazi major and warns him about Ingrid Bergman's and Paul Henreid's plan to flee the city.

So when does Renault get his comeuppance?  Never.  In fact, the final scene of the movie is him walking into the fog with Rick, the hero of the piece!  The famous line "This might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship" is spoken by Rick to Captain Renault.  If there was a movie featuring such a corrupt police official today, you'd expect the sucker to be dead by the time the credits roll, but Renault not only survives, he's assigned a place of honor with the hero.  What gives?  Have morals and society's opinion simply changed that much since 1942, or is there some hidden redeeming quality to Renault that I missed in watching the movie?

Offline Tom

Re: Casablanca Dissonance
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2010, 04:54:09 AM »
Interesting questions.

I think the character is there in part to show us what Rick thinks he is, or what he wants us to think he is - a businessman with no ambitions other than to serve himself. Obviously we soon learn that underneath his tough exterior, Rick has a soft heart and strong moral fibre.

As for the character's redeeming qualities, he does one thing, which is not turning Rick over to the Nazis at the end. Renault knows that Casablanca is much better with Rick around - and he propably prefers his capitalist ways rather than the nazi regime. In the end, I think Renault would rather have a semi-free France, than a Nazi empire - which probably was the reasoning for many in the Vichy government.

I don't think the times have changed so much. In fact I think back in the days people would have looked upon a collaborator with more contempt than we do today looking back. Many of those who aided the germans were executed in the aftermath of the war.

We as an audience sort of like Renault for being a captalist instead of a nazi. And for the the fact that he has a sense of humor (unlike the nazis). He gan be bargained with. He can be reasoned with. He can be bribed. He is not a good guy, but he is not a monster either.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Casablanca Dissonance
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2010, 08:29:41 AM »

He doesn't dime out Rick to the Nazi's... most 'turncoats' in modern day movies would.

I get the feeling this would have been a good spot for the start of his story. And he was definitely for himself, and turning in Rick wasn't profitable in the long run.  I think a bit of it has to do with the story writing style of the time. (For the hero to work.. he's got to have bribeable scum to work with.)

Offline Whoami

Re: Casablanca Dissonance
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2010, 05:59:04 AM »
Isn't Captain Renault allowed a stab at redemption? Yes, he has been self-serving, but no worse than many would have been, and probably actively co-operating with the Nazis a lot less than he could. The ironic "round up the usual suspects" indicates an attitude of doing the minimum required to keep them off his back (and perhaps from getting more directly, and unpleasantly, involved) than it does any zeal to impose Vichy/Nazi order.
So, an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, like Rick doing his best to not get too involved, (and let's face it, his exportation of his position could have been taken far more venal, sadistic and blood-soaked) and like Rick, is surely entitled to a hope of redemption when his eyes are opened to "the troubles of the world" and an alternative path offered?

Offline PhantomPistoleer

Re: Casablanca Dissonance
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2010, 07:45:45 PM »
Rick runs an illegal gambling den in a Nazi-occupied territory.  He is in the business of forgery, aiding and abetting and is forgiven for all the bad that he does because of the good things that he does.  Since this is Rick's story, the viewer is shown that this is a flawed, lovelorn individual, but that he has something of a heart.  That's Rick's character development:  he moves from being this selfish, moody cynic and becomes less selfish and more hopeful as the film goes on.

Since this isn't Louis' story, the viewer must assume a number of things about him while watching the film.  In fact, the climax of the film rests on the drama of Louis' allegiance.  Will he give Rick away?  The audience is almost assured that he is.  But he doesn't.  Why?  Because Louis is a good man, despite his flaws.  He is also a patriot.  With this knowledge, a viewer can watch the film again and make a number of observations about Louis' actions:  he prolongs the investigation of Rick's place, he prolongs the arrest of the revolutionist, he doesn't arrest Rick despite having cause, he forces Rick to detest him simply to get a good, moralistic reaction from him (he tells the couple to see Rick because Rick can help them;  once Rick helps one couple, Louis informs him that tomorrow, he has a beautiful blond lined up-- this warning isn't actually meant to be a warning, but it's used to incite Rick into doing precisely what he wants him to do).