As America prepares to enter WW2, Hungarian film director Michael Curtiz grapples with political intervention and a dysfunctional relationship with his estranged daughter amid the troubled p... Read allAs America prepares to enter WW2, Hungarian film director Michael Curtiz grapples with political intervention and a dysfunctional relationship with his estranged daughter amid the troubled production of Casablanca in 1942.As America prepares to enter WW2, Hungarian film director Michael Curtiz grapples with political intervention and a dysfunctional relationship with his estranged daughter amid the troubled production of Casablanca in 1942.
Michael Curtiz was hardly an artist, he was a prolific but average studio owned director with a lot, a whole lot, of mediocre sentimental films but nothing notable with the exception of Casablanca.
Casablanca has a huge popular cultural impact, and it is a loved film, but it is hardly an achievement from a directorial point of view. The most notable and loved aspects of Casablanca are the score eg "as time goes by"/a kiss is but a kiss...", which Curtiz himself opposed; the dozen or so immensely notable one liners ("I am shocked, shocked) which were the sole creation of the writers, the Epstein brothers; the casting of Bogart who fit the role perfectly and which Curtiz had nothing to do with; and the serendipitous way the screenplay's narrative fit perfectly with Americana's view about their intervention in the war. None of those were the result of anything Curtis did or decided.
This film also invents a storyline in which Curtiz is harassed by some shadowy US government representatives trying to promote a patriotic message, when in fact the reason d'etre of the film was seen as a vehicle for exactly that by producer Wallis and by Wanrer brothers from the get go. There is no evidence Curtiz ever in the period had has patriotism questioned or that he was threatened by any government officials. He was hired as director because he had a record of getting things done quickly, adequately, and within budget, and despite that he went over budget and well outside of schedule. That garnered pressure from the studio -- nothing else did.
The only alteration by semi-government officials at all in Casablanca was removal of the direct reference to the Vichy French official trading visas for sexual favors out of standard prudery in film standards of the time. This is is a irony lost on the makers of "Curtiz" since they downplay the fact that Curtiz was top predator in the 'casting couch' tradition and he spent his career abusing his power over young actresses. The unintended irony is that Curtiz behaved like that Vichy official! Curtiz also left a trail of illegitimate children (when he could not convince the woman to have an abortion) whom he did not support.
Frankly this is a "message" film with a fake message. I get that the Hungarian makers of this tripe want to celebrate their native son who went to America and did well. But I suspect that they decided on the subject since making it about film-maker they are then guaranteed to get placement in the increasingly narcissistic and self referential film festivals. Frankly a story about Hungarian born Monica Selles, or Edward Teller would have been more interesting.
Lastly there are a few juvenile and artificial attempts to make the film timely. If you are unforgotten enough to watch "Curtiz" look for someone dropping the line "make America great again." That is so snarky and forced that it is beyond idiotic -- especially when we are talking about a time when the US did save Europe and people like Curtiz, and millions of Europeans fled the statist oppression of communism and fascism in Europe specifically because of its greatness.
- Mar 29, 2019