Watching a legendary film on the big screen is a wonderful experience as it is, but to watch it surrounded by the characters that changed one’s view on cinema, that took the pleasure of watching films to a never ending love for cinema, well…that is a once in a lifetime experience that the people from Future Cinema made possible. They invite you to the mystic lands of Morocco of 1941 for a night that is bound to stay in your heart along with the film for a very long time.
When you say Casablanca you say old-school film, you think of a piece of cinema history that the whole world has agreed is absolutely wonderful. On Sunday night I stepped through the silver screen and found myself sat at one of Rick’s Café Americain’s tables, surrounded by the guests dressed smart enough for our day and age, but what would’ve been regarded as common in the 40’s – men in suits and hats, and women in seamed stockings and gorgeous dresses.
Among us there were the Moroccan officers roaming and checking that our papers were alright – if not, you would’ve been thoroughly interrogated about your presence in Morocco. Along with them the scrutinizing eyes of the French officers would often fall on you along with a charming and sharp “Bonsoir!”.
…gun shots will break the atmosphere…
In the middle of the bar stands a white piano and behind it the shiny jacket of Sam’s back shimmers in the dim lights. He’s always happy to exchange a word with the guests even taking requests or having a drink with them. In the back, behind his wooden desk, sits Rick Blaine in his white tux overlooking his place in silence. As soon as Ilsa and Victor Laszlo make their appearance, (and if you pay enough attention), you could witness their meeting between them. Nothing seems abnormal about all of this. It does make you feel like you are there for a reason; that something else is going on that you are not fully aware of.
The band plays tunes after tunes and people have the time of their lives dancing along to the Nat King Cole jazzy music. All of the sudden a suspect will be caught and the officers will track him down, gun shots will break the atmosphere and up on the stairs, Rick is again, looking over the moment with a cold look in his eyes.
…I whispered to him, as if I were afraid myself that someone could hear me…
My favourite moment of the night was definitely my encounter with Victor Laszlo – on whom, I’m afraid I developed a little crush on. As I was sat at the table chatting away with my friend, he silently came and sat next to me, enquiring the reason for which I am not on the dance floor. He later explained to me that he has lost his wife. I pointed her out to him but he apologised for his short-sighted situation and asked me whether I am part of the Resistance, judging by the ring I had to wear on the fifth finger on my left hand. I whispered to him, as if I were afraid myself that someone could hear me, that I am. Laszlo then slipped me a leaflet with the French National Anthem on and told me to meet him at the Blue Parrot after the second Bees Knees song. As he gets up and leaves he mumbles a sharp “Vive la France!” and I reply.
This moment as fleeting as it was has got me in a surreal state of mind when I actually believed that I was part of the French Resistance and my purpose there was to do something to free the country from the German occupation. I didn’t know for sure what that was, but it surely got me looking over my shoulder constantly.
…the screen revealed itself in all its beauty and took us all on the magnificent lands of Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca…
I did as I was told and at the right time I went to the Blue Parrot to meet Laszlo again. He was there surrounded by his allies, as he was giving a speech about the troubled times we were finding ourselves in. Then, all of the sudden the officers catch someone and throw him to the wall, shooting him dead. On the other side of the room, the German officers took over the piano and started chanting their National Anthem. At the sign of that, the entire crowd from the Blue Parrot started marching towards the stage along to a choir of people singing all together, whether they knew French or the National French Anthem. In the height of our glory, the lights went dim and the screen revealed itself in all its beauty and took us all on the magnificent lands of Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
The live cinema event does not address those who are unfamiliar with the 1942 film. If one goes there not knowing the plot, the situation or the characters, it might just end up being a very fancy night ended with a screening of a classic film. I think that the more you have passion for old-school cinema, black and white screen heroes and timeless stories, but especially, Casablanca, you belong there.
…they recreated Rick’s Café Americain…
Future Cinema transformed the truly astonishing Troxy into a time machine. The gloomy, cold London seems like oceans away and as soon as you step through the backdoor of the venue, the incense sticks and Moroccan food smells basically draw you to the epicenter of the night: they recreated Rick’s Café Americain.
It was a truly unequalled experience of cinema. Visiting the little Casablanca in Canary Wharf for as long as it’s still there shall remain one of the most magical moments of the live cinema experiences.