Un­usual sus­pects: why politi­cians love this movie

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

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

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