Unusual suspects: why politicians love this movie
Late last year British Members of Parliament voted Casablanca, Michael Curtiz’s peerless drama of skulduggery in wartime Morocco, as their favourite film of all time. A glance at the contributions from politicians in these pages suggests that the picture may have even greater cross-bench appeal in our own parliament. Michael McDowell, Mary Lou McDonald, Pat Rabbitte and Olwyn Enright (clockwise from top right) all mentioned the 1942 classic.
That, somewhat intriguingly, means that, among the parties whose representatives responded, only Fianna Fáil and the Greens seem resistant to the charms of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. What’s the problem, Trevor? I don’t remember any American planes refuelling at the airport in that iconic final scene. Does Fianna Fáil— unlike the differently culpable Sinn Féin and Fine Gael – still feel collective discomfort when reminded of its limited enthusiasm for the fight against fascism 60 years ago?
Casablanca, whose references to adultery caused it to be hacked into incoherence by the Irish censors, positively begs the viewer to construct political allegories out of its twisty plot. Bogart’s vacillation and ultimate commitment to the struggle against fascism must surely mirror the mental tussles many politicians go through as young men or women.
The shifting allegiances of Captain Renault, played with characteristic suavity by Claude Rains, remind us of the contortions performed by junior parties in coalitions. All the argy-bargy of parliamentary discourse is here.
That noted – and acknowledging what an irresistible film Casablanca remains – there is something disappointing about the politicians’ near complete failure to name any other picture made in black and white (Barry Andrews does mention Manhattan, but that was made in 1980 after all). Contemporary films do, at a superficial level, seem more obviously relevant, but the fundamental things do continue to apply as time goes by.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the Oscar-winning Casablanca