Friday, July 24, 2009

Cinema #44, Memory #8, Time #18

To speak—perhaps to write?—of Casablanca is like looking at an old photograph: there you are but somehow that is not you: in between there is memory, the time that went by and the renewed photofinish, its battle with time won—and lost. Time does not pass: you pass through time and as in a narrow hedge of brambles you leave your clothes and skin on the thorns too. In short, time is like the bank in roulette: it always wins. (It wins even when it loses.) And it has won against Casablanca. It that obsolete, distant, almost ridiculous and false movie the one which you so lovingly remembered? Is the petulant part of Claude Rains the perfect portrayal of a gentleman in cynic’s clothing that we treasured in our memory? And Humphrey Bogart, isn’t he a caricature of what he pretends to be, with his absurd existentialist gallantry? And isn’t Paul Henreid ridiculous as the hero of the Resistance that they oblige him to be? Instead of conspiring underground and keeping himself hidden he devotes himself to conducting the Marseillaise in front of all the Germans, like a laughable apprentice of Leopold Stokowski? And what about Conrad Veidt, with his real German accent made into a phony one by the falseness of his role as a stupid Prussian gentlemen? To the cronista’s questions, the reader can in turn ask: “So, then, why the four points (the sign of excellence), what are they for?” They are for memory.

G. Cain (a.k.a. Guillermo Cabrera Infante), “Time v. Cinema” (June 2, 1956)