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Casablanca

Movies and Memory

2009
Author:

Marc Augé
Translated by Tom Conley
Afterword by Tom Conley

Casablanca

A poetic and meditative essay on the impact of film on our personal and collective memories

Seamlessly weaving together film criticism and memoir, Casablanca moves between Marc Augé’s insights into the filmgoing experience and his reflections on his own life, the collective trauma of France’s wartime history, and how such events as the fall of Paris, the exodus of refugees, and the Occupation—all depicted in the film—were lived and are remembered.

A distinguished French ethnologist investigates Hollywood’s best-loved (and most Francophilic) movie. Marc Augé calls himself a ‘frustrated Proustian’ but this fluid tour-de-force—part memoir, part free-associative meditation, both objective and subjective in its sense of cinematic experience—is anything but blocked.

J. Hoberman

Marc Augé was eleven or twelve years old when he first saw Casablanca. Made in 1942 but not released in France until 1947, the film had a profound effect on him. Like cinephiles everywhere, Augé was instantly drawn to Rick Blaine’s mysterious past, his friendship with Sam and Captain Renault, and Ilsa’s stirring, seductive beauty. The film—with its recurring scenes of waiting, menace, and flight—occupies a significant place in Augé’s own memory of his uprooted childhood and the wartime exploits of his family.

Marc Augé’s elegant and thoughtful essay on film and the nature of both personal and collective memory contends that some of our most haunting memories are deeply embedded in the cinema. His own recollections of the hurried, often chaotic embarkations of his childhood, he writes, are intertwined with scenes from Casablanca that have become bigger in his memory through repeated viewings in the movie houses of Paris’s Latin Quarter.

Seamlessly weaving together film criticism and memoir, Casablanca moves between Augé’s insights into the filmgoing experience and his reflections on his own life, the collective trauma of France’s wartime history, and how such events as the fall of Paris, the exodus of refugees, and the Occupation—all depicted in the film—were lived and are remembered.

Casablanca

Marc Augé, an anthropologist trained in French universities, has studied and written copiously on North African cultures. He teaches leading seminars at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and is author of many books, including La traversée du Luxembourg, Domaines et châteaux, Non-lieux: Introduction à l’anthropologie de la surmodernité, Un ethnologue dans le métro, and Les formes de l’oubli. The English translations In the Metro and Oblivion have been published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Tom Conley is Lowell Professor of Romance Languages and Film Studies at Harvard University. His publications from the University of Minnesota Press include Cartographic Cinema (2007), Film Hieroglyphs: Ruptures in Classical Cinema (1991; new edition, 2006), and The Self-Made Map: Cartographic Writing in Early Modern France (1996). His translations published by the University of Minnesota Press include The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, by Gilles Deleuze; Culture in the Plural and The Capture of Speech and Other Political Writings, by Michel de Certeau; and In the Metro, by Marc Augé.

Casablanca

A distinguished French ethnologist investigates Hollywood’s best-loved (and most Francophilic) movie. Marc Augé calls himself a ‘frustrated Proustian’ but this fluid tour-de-force—part memoir, part free-associative meditation, both objective and subjective in its sense of cinematic experience—is anything but blocked.

J. Hoberman

Marc Augé’s essay intercuts autobiography, anthropology, philosophy, and film criticism in a manner both lucid and richly suggestive. Looking back on episodes from his childhood in German-occupied France as amplified and inflected by one of our culture’s most resonant fictions, Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca, Augé evokes the ways in which memory, experience and art interact to create myths that are at once universal and uniquely tailored to each individual.

Dave Kehr

Augé weaves together memoir and film criticism in. . . elegantly written pages. One minute he's reconstructing childhood memories of the war years, while in the next he's contemplating the complex relationship Rick (Humphrey Bogart's character in Casablanca) has with his own past. It succeeds brilliantly without being bound by any traditional structure, the form being dictated by the material itself.

Playback:stl

By offering the reader highly personalized reflections on his own Casablanca, refracted as much through tan endgame engagement with his dying mother as through remembering a cherished film, Auge offers us a world just as dilapidated and yet just as complete as the world of the original film.

Cultural Anthropology

For those interested in the relation between cinema and memory and open to creativity in the presentation of anthropological work, Casablanca is a rewarding read.

Cultural Anthropology

Casablanca remains an intelligent and beautiful exploration of the personal experience of history, one that easily evokes the filmic through a Proustian montage.

Screening the Past

This enjoyable volume does not fit easily into any category: it is part memoire, rumination upon the nature of memory, travelogue (through a wartime France); it reasserts the part mid-20th Century cinema had to play in entrancing Western audiences not only by providing romantic role models but also by pointing towards notions of national consensus and moral choice.

Leonardo Reviews

At just 76 pages this extended essay is a physically slight, but powerfully affecting work.

Film International

Brian Price has contributed a lively and essential work that should serve to redirect future critical appraisals of one of the most important directors in the history of French, and indeed of world cinema.

H-Film

Augé draws a refreshing parallel between life and films. The parallel is not new, but tends to be obliterated from contemporary discussions of cinema. It can indeed be found in other philosophers who have considered similar material.

H-France

Casablanca

contents

Sometimes the idea strikes me
I don’t know exactly when
Every film we have enjoyed
Montage
The exodus marked my childhood
Why is Rick (Humphrey Bogart) so bitter
Two or three years ago
When I went to say hello to my mother
What I love in old films
The source of Casablanca
Like those oftragedy, movie heroes
Nothing contrasts more than the opposition ofblack and white
When an individual’s story crosses through history
I was very young
I love the Montparnasse station
At the beginning of Casablancaa voice-over
My mother was walking with di·culty
I’ll let some time go by

Translator’s Afterword a writer and his movie Tom Conley