Monday, August 25, 2003

Played It Too Much, Sam

Saw Casablanca this weekend, and while for most people that might not be much of an
event, for me it was the proverbial first time. Won't go on about the movie itself (which
was pretty much as good as advertised, just wonderfully spiky dialogue and an all-time
great character and performance, I thought, in Captain Louis Renault), but did want to
address an odd phenomenon I noticed.

As I said, I had never seen Casablanca. I'm in my late twenties. (Yes; it is a shame, but
expect more shames, I'm woefully and criminally underexposed to films older than I).
So, while I hadn't seen the film, I have heard its more famous lines (and, as everyone but
me knows, it has oodles) hundreds of times. The result was that during some big
moments, the ending speech by Rick in particular, the lines, good as they were, sounded
like clich├ęs. I know; this happens to everyone when a film gets this big. But more than
that, the lines, and their familiarity, had a weird double effect on me, in that the lines were bigger than their
meaning. In other words, it was impossible to hear the line as it was intended and not hear
the weight of its notoriety on top of it.

I've had a very similar thing happen with film music. If I know a score really, really
well, through listening to it on CD (like I do with, say, Legends of the Fall), and have
only seen the movie, at most, once (like I have with, say, Legends of the Fall), then if I
happen to see a bit of the movie (as I recently did with, oh, you get the idea) it's as if the
normal layers of dominance are reversed. For me, given how ingrained the score is in my mind, it's as if the action is accompanying the music, and not the other way around. It's an
odd sensation.

It was the same thing with Casablanca. I heard echoes of all the parodies, all the bad Bogey imitations, all the quotes, instead of the words themselves and what they meant to the characters at that moment in the story. Like I said, odd.

Anyway, none of this is meant to take away from just how good Casablanca was, of
course - just an observation of what pop culture aturation can do.

Until whenever.

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