CASABLANCA part 2



In Casablanca's one flashback, Rick's Parisian interlude with Ilsa can be understood as the realization of this desire to possess:the blissful union with an all-good, nurturing woman completely unattached (at least in Rick's mind) to a threatening paternalfigure.

We doubt that any other actress could have fulfilled this role quite as completely as Bergman, whose screen image projectsthe most desirable qualities of mother and lover. Whenever Curtiz's camera closes tightly on her face, she appears to be asinnocent and nurturing as she is sensual and compliant. Rick was not the only one who responded to Bergman's face in thismanner: The American media worked itself into a frenzy in 1949 when Bergman bore a child out of wedlock to RobertoRossellini, After years of being portrayed in the press as the ideal wife and mother, Bergman so thoroughly flouted Americanmythology that she was denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and a legislator in the Maryland state senate introduced abill to condemn Stromboli, Bergman's first film with Rossellini.[11]

Rick's flashback at first depicts a dream-like paradise of prewar, pre-Oedipal Paris, where he toasts Ilsa amid romanticsettings. The lovers create a dyed that comes to its inevitable end with the arrival of Nazi armies, a nightmare image of thejealous, castrating father. Ilsa, as nurturing mother, has even warned Rick that the Nazis will take special pains to look forhim. Later on, in Casablanca, Rick enters a more advanced stage of Oedipal development when he comes face to face withVictor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Although some viewers may consider Henreid's Laszlo something of a cold fish, there is noquestion that the intellectual/freedom-fighter manages to be more heroic, virtuous, understanding, and forgiving than the mostidealized hero of romantic fiction. Laszlo's entrance presents Rick with a typical conflict of the Oedipal-phase male child.Does he challenge and attempt to replace his rival, or does he renounce the forbidden object of his love and identify with hisfather?

Unlike Oedipus, whose entire, undisplaced story has never really been taken up by Hollywood, Rick negotiates the Oedipalphase with success. He renounces his incestuous object of desire and identifies with father/Laszlo, Ilsa's original mate whoseplace Rick could usurp only temporarily. When he guns down the evil Nazi Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), Rick kiss theprincipal enemy of his father surrogate, thereby becoming a man himself. Alternately, we might also regard the killing ofStrasser as the displacement of Rick's Oedipal rage onto a less stigmatizing individual, but one who is nevertheless associatedwith the pre-Oedipal disruption brought about when the Nazis entered Paris. Like Ernest Jones's Hamlet,[12] Rick is anindecisive, passive individual until he renounces mother, identifies with father, and kiss the villain. In terms of the film'spolitical/Oedipal nexus, Rick's decision to fight the Nazis corresponds with his realization that the paradise he has lost was anillusion sustained only by a refusal to acknowledge the existence of father. Casablanca resembles most Hollywood films of theclassical period in its highly involving combination of myth and politics with melodrama.

Another aspect of Rick's dilemma is that the man he wishes to replace is a figure of unimpeachable integrity and virtue, thuscomplicating his efforts to integrate his positive regard for Laszlo with his murderous wishes toward him. Similarly, it isdifficult for Rick to view this forgiving and saintly leader of the resistance as a castrating, punitive father who will retaliateagainst Rick for his lustful yearning toward llsa. Because of Rick's difficulty in integrating these representations of himselfand Laszlo, he appears to regress from the task of integration that accompanies the Oedipal phase. The result is a splitting ofthe father figure into the benevolent Laszlo on the one hand and the sadistic Major Strasser on the other. Even the ultimateidentification with Laszlo at the end of the film comes at the expense of his murdering the disavowed and split-off "bad"aspects of the internalized father. One could argue, then, that resolution of the Oedipal conflict is only partial since a trueintegration of "good" and "bad" aspects of the father has not been achieved.

"Here's Looking. . ."

These classically psychoanalytic readings of Casablanca are not typical of the theoretically oriented writing that currentlyfills most academic film journals. By isolating the characters as case histories, this application of Freudian theory casts theviewer in the role of ideal analyst, completely free from any countertransferential reaction to the images on the screen. AsShoshana Felman has observed, the actual experience of text puts the reader/viewer in the dual position of analyst andanalysand, attempting to take charge of the story at the same time that the story takes charge of its consumer.[13] TheLacanian- inflected psychoanalysis that has dominated film theory in the academy for several years now is usually presentedas the alternative to a classically Freudian film criticism. Too often in the lacanalysis of films, however, will-of-the-wisptheoretical positions are read back into films with such iron rigidity that some of the most salient aspects of a film are entirelyoverlooked.[14] As Kaplan argues, we must hold applied psychoanalysis to the same conceptual standards as clinicalpsychoanalysis.[15] Most notably, Lacanians tend to ignore the specificity of actors: Bogart and Bergman, for example, arealmost texts unto themselves, and any thorough reading of Casablanca must account for how their star qualities, theirhistories, and the meanings encoded in their cinematic images transform the films in which they appear. We undertake aLacanian reading of Casablanca to illustrate one of several possibilities in the application of psychoanalysis to the Hollywoodcinema.

A major similarity between lacanalysis and classical psychoanalysis is an attention to Oedipal triangles. Raymond Bellour,especially eminent among Lacanian theorists, has suggested that the Oedipus story is the masterplot of all Hollywoodnarratives.[16] A Lacanian reading of Casablanca would focus not so much on the dynamics among the characters but on howthe viewer is constructed within a larger discursive field that positions the viewer in a circuit of looks.

Richard Corliss has suggested that "Rick's famous toast--`Here's looking at you, kid'--can be read as meaning, `Here's trying tolook into your soul, kid, to figure out who you really are.'"[17] A Lacanian would have no difficulty conceptualizing theremark somewhat differently, in terms of how the viewer is positioned through Rick, its surrogate. So long as the audience isin control of the gaze, looking at Ilsa but also at everyone else, it need not acknowledge the range of differences that theclassical realist text works so hard to conceal. The possibility that someone or something may be looking at Rick raises thepossibility of difference and the possibilities of castration that marks the entry of the subject into the symbolic register.[18]As long as the viewer controls the look, it can safely remain in the imaginary register where there is no difference betweenitself and mother.

Significantly, when Rick's looking toast is interrupted in the flashback by Gestapo loudspeakers, Sam (Dooley Wilson) warnshim that the Germans will soon be in Paris, "and they'll come lookin' for ye." The invading Nazis represent not only thecastrating father but the castrating gaze of the Other as well. The coincidence of the Nazis' arrival with the bafflingdisappearance of Ilsa leaves Rick as an object in someone else's plot, his previously omniscent gaze reduced to a limited pointof view. Similarly, the Oedipal trajectory that leads Rick to the reconciliation with Laszlo and the elimination of Strasserrestores him to a sense of origin and identity offered by the father. Rick surrenders Ilsa to Laszlo only after he has completelyregained control over the narrative, writing a script to which he holds the only copy. As a result, he has regained the right toutter the looking toast once again. His newly found father, unjealous and supportive to a fault, then tells him, "This time Iknow our side will win."[19]

". . . at You, Kid"

Beginning in 1975 with the publication of Laura Mulvey's extraordinarily influential essay, "Visual Pleasure and the NarrativeCinema," Lacan' s theses on the look and castration have been central to feminist film theory.[20] According to Mulvey andthe many writers who have followed in her wake, the patriarchal order of the Hollywood cinema provides two basic solutionsto the fear activated in men by women' s implied threat of castration: Either the woman's lack is part of her punishment forsome wrongdoing, usually sexual transgression, or she is fetishized so that a portion of her body (breasts, hair, face, legs,bottom, even the entire body) becomes important enough to compensate for the lack of a penis.[21] Male viewers can thenderive voyeuristic pleasure from a cinema that provides fetishized images of women to exorcise male castration anxiety.[22]The most commonly cited example here is Busby Berkeley, who directed all those production numbers of Warner Brothersmusicals in which entire armies of women are fetishized, their body parts reduced to geometric patterns.

The plot of Casablanca consistently emphasizes the sufferings of Ilsa, carefully placing the burden of transgression on hermore than on the two male leads. Both Rick and Laszlo have loved her unselfishly, but she has been unfaithful to both.Although the film finds narrative means for repressing her guilt, justifying her conduct in terms of a legitimate romanticdilemma, there is no question that she has deceived Laszlo through her silences as much as she has deceived Rick byconcealing her marriage to Laszlo. As Greenberg has observed, there is little sense in the Laszlos' decision to keep theirmarriage a secret in order to protect Ilsa from the Gestapo.[23] It would be just as logical for the Germans to interrogate alover as a wife, perhaps even more logical. Ilsa has no real justification for not telling Rick of her marriage, just as she has nosound reason for concealing her affair with Rick from the infinitely forgiving Laszlo.

Significantly, Ilsa's sins are those of omission rather than commission, resulting from the absence of voice rather than from toomuch. Kaja Silverman has extended Mulvey's work on the role of women in the visual register of the cinema to a study ofwoman's cinematic voice.[24] Classical cinema does not stop at confining women to an inferior function in which amale-driven diegesis stops so that the woman may be exhibited. In addition, the voice of a woman is seldom given thepowerful position of voice-over narration. With rare and problematic exceptions such as Hitchcock's Rebecca,[25]extradiegetic voiceover is inevitably male in Hollywood films, including Casablanca with its voice-of-god newsreel voice in theprologue. The subordination of women in patriarchal cinema has even been extended to situations in which heroines are quiteliterally deprived of voice, the most often cited example being Johnny Belinda. Appropriately, at the end of Casablanca, Ilsahas very little to say to either Rick or Laszlo, her lying silences giving way to a continuing renunciation of voice after thecrucial love scene "up a flight" in which she asks Rick to do the thinking--and speaking- -for both of them.

The film's sadistic treatment of Ilsa takes a substantial toll in tears, often revealed in tight closeups of her fetishized face. Thealmost kittenish sexuality of Ingrid Bergman's face, combined with her country-girl wholesomeness, provides the male viewerI with an object of aesthetic perfection sufficient to ward off the thought of castration. Significantly, the first Mt. Rushmorecloseup of Bergman in Casablanca takes place as she listens, lost in thought, to Sam playing "As Time Goes By." Mulveypoints out that musicals are typical of the patriarchal order of classical cinema in their careful separation of performancenumbers--often featuring scantily clad females--from the diegesis so that the viewer can divert all his attention tocontemplating the female body. There is always a risk in interrupting the diegesis, however, because the involving flow of thestory effectively stops. Mulvey mentions the "buddy movie," in which the eroticized display of women is entirelyeliminated, as one solution to this problem.[26] The long closeup of Bergman's face as she listens to the music is perhaps aneven better solution, integrating a moment of fetishized display into a diegetic sequence that prepares us for the climacticreunion of Rick and Ilsa.

"Moonlight and Love Songs Never Out of Date"

Until recently, little work had been done on the importance of background music in classical cinema. Claudia Gorbman is oneof a handful of critics who have productively brought psychoanalytic theories of music into film study.[27] She cites anumber of Lacanian writers who have associated music with a pre-Oedipal stage in which the child lives in a "sonorousenvelope" dominated by the pleasingly rhythmic sound of the mother's heart, and later by the soothing, musical sound of hervoice.[28] By promoting "benign regression" to the blissful time before the child senses that it is separate from the mother,movie music "invokes the (auditory) imaginary. "[29] Furthermore, music is free from linguistic signification and other kindsof representation, and thus it can more easily bypass defense systems and penetrate to the unconscious. Gorbman acceptsthe arguments of Metz and others that dominant cinema attempts to erase the signs of its workings by casting the viewer asthe subject rather than the object of the film' s enunciation. "Music greases the wheels of cinematic pleasure by easing thespectator's passage into subjectivity."[30]

Although she does not dwell on Casablanca, Gorbman devotes an entire chapter to the work of Max Steiner, the prolificcomposer who scored Casablanca, in order to illustrate "classical Hollywood practice." [31] After establishing a set ofprinciples for the use of music in Hollywood films (invisibility, "inaudibility," signifier of emotion, narrative cuing,continuity, unity, and the legitimate violation of any principle at the service of another), Gorbman undertakes a discussion of"the epic feeling" of music that is especially relevant to the appeal of Casablanca. Remarking on the anthropological analysisof musical elements in rituals that bind together human communities, she notes how music in classical cinema can be put touse for the pleasureful creation of the sense of commonality. The most obvious example of this phenomenon occursdiegetically in Casablanca when Laszlo leads the non-German patrons of Rick's Cafe Americain in a performance of "LaMarseillaise," eliciting patriotic tears even from the sexually collaborationist Yvonne (Madeleine Le Beau). The extradiegeticmusic in Casablanca is carefully constructed to elicit appropriate emotions from the audience, usually the same emotions thatthe film attributes to Rick. The most striking example is the string orchestra voicing of "As Time Goes By" that issuperimposed on Sam's diegetic piano after Rick insists on hearing the song. Steiner's music intrudes "inaudibly" at thiscrucial moment in order to seal us into Rick's- -and the film's--imaginary, the pre-Oedipal scenes in Paris before the arrival ofthe Germans and the departure of Ilsa.

Citing an example from Steiner's score for Curtiz's Mildred Pierce, Gorbman has written, "the appropriate music will elevatethe story of a man to the story of Man."[32] Much the same can be said for the long closeup of Bergman as she listens to "AsTime Goes By." With Ilsa's face providing addhional validation, Sam's interpretation of the Iyrics elevates a love song to asong about Love. Surprisingly, the song was almost excised from the film. "As Time Goes By" was written by HermanHupfeld and frst performed in 1931 in a Broadway show called Everybody's Welcome. The song is central in the unproducedplay on which the script for Cosoblonca is based. When shooting was completed and an edited print of the film waspresented to Steiner, he objected to the use of "As Time Goes By" and asked to substitute a song of his own composition.Steina said that he disliked the song, but he also knew that he would surely benefit from the royalty checks if his own songbecame popular. At first, producer Hal Wallis consented to cut the scene in which Bergman requests "As Time Goes By" byname and to shoot additional scenes in which Steiner's song would be used. But since Ingrid Bergman had by this timereceived a rather severe haircut for her role in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Wallis realized that a new scene with Bergman andWilson was out of the question. Steiner subsequently learned that he would have to work with the original scene and hencewith "As Time Goes By."[33]

It is as difficult to imagine Casoblanco without "As Time Goes By" as it is to imagine the film with Ronald Reagan, AnnSheridan, and Dennis Morgan, the leads who were originally projected for the film. [34] In its day, the film gained an elementof nostalgic power by using a well-known song. Many in the audience may have associated a romantic experience of their own with the music, thus adding an additional level of audience subjectivity to Ilsa's, and later Rick' s, reaction to the song.For a moment, Ilsa and the viewer return to an earlier time, but the audience has the larger-than-life face of an idealizedmaternal fgure to facilitate regression to a moment even more pleasant than the one recalled by the heroine. Although morecontemporary audiences are likely to associate the song with the same era as the flm, the music is still crucial in associatingthe experience of the flm with a simpler, more romantic era to which the viewer can bliss fully return.

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