We’re like everybody else. We order DVDs from Netflix and watch them on our flat-screen TV and reassure ourselves we’re not missing a thing. Sometimes, that may be true. Other times, we’re just flat wrong.
My husband and I saw Casablanca recently at the Paramount Theatre’s classic summer series. It’s my all-time favorite movie and I’ve probably seen it a good 25 times in my life. But it’s different, better, incredible, incomparable on the big screen.
We were sitting, as usual, in the third row, which is why it’s often hard to get friends to go to movies with us. But, once you go up front, you can never go back. Anywhere else is diluted and anemic.
The faces — Bergman, Bogart, Lorre, Rains, Greenstreet — were extraordinary, looming over us like Mount Rushmore, staring out from the shadows. And God, all the wonderful lines, from “I was misinformed” to the “start of a beautiful relationship.”
But it’s the scene with the Marseillaise that sends me over the top every time, swooning and choked-up and crawling with goosebumps. We once saw the movie with a young French couple who’d never seen it before, both my husband and me swinging out into our usual emotional orbit when the French national anthem overpowered the Nazi melody. At some point, we turned around and looked at the young couple, certain they’d be overcome with emotion and offering their profound gratitude for our having introduced them to this wonderful movie and its highly stirring scene involving the French national anthem.
But, au contraire. They appeared deeply bored. One of them, as I recall, may have even dozed off.
So much for that. But at the Paramount — which was filled with an audience of people like us, middle-aged and reverential — everyone else was as thrilled as we were. Thank God no moron ever re-made Casablanca, praise the lord someone had the good sense to let sheer perfection alone so we could see it again and again, on the large screen and the small, seeing something immortal that only gets better with time.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)