I don’t think of The Princess Bride as a particularly romantic film, so I’m surprised that more than one theater in the area has scheduled special Valentine’s Day screenings. Then again, Princess Bride has never been a movie that I’ve cared for in general — as with most topics, I try to avoid liking the same things that Ted Cruz likes.
Casablanca, on the other hand, is a perfect Valentine’s Day movie, and it’s V-Day screenings are a popular annual tradition at the Brattle (at least one screening is already sold out). Directed by Michael Curtiz, a Jewish Hungarian emigré who had been a prolific and popular director since the earliest days of Warner Brothers, this memorable story focuses on the ways in which World War II affected people far from the front. More than an apt parable about the ethics of interventionism, the heart of the film is a love triangle. In addition to the starring turns from the never-better Humphrey Bogart as a jadedl ex-pat and radiant Ingrid Bergman as an emotionally-torn freedom fighter, the film is peopled with some the era’s greatest character actors, including Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and the diminutive Claude Rains. (It’s themes of joining The Resistance, and the acute symbolism of national anthems, are also resonant in these political times.)
Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute’s list of the best American movies ever made, it’s unlikely that you haven’t seen it by now. But it’s worth revisiting to see what made the Hollywood films of the studio era so popular.
Screening this week at the Brattle Theatre at 4:00pm and 7:00pm on both Tuesday, Feb. 13 and Wednesday, Feb. 14.