Genre, Social Context, and Auteur are crucial topics that a cinema has been portraying since the making of the first movie. In this paper, I am going to compare Casablanca(1942) and Memento(2000) on following topics. Casablanca is a classic Hollywood movie that was directed by Micheal Curtiz. Casablanca(1942) features the love story of Rick Blaine intertwined with the social problems created by the World War 2. In process of telling the story in the movie, director Curtiz mixes various genres together making it a classic Hollywood masterpiece despite its low expectation from Warner Bros. Whereas, Memento(2000) is a movie directed by Christopher Nolan which shows the story of Leonard Shelby, who suffers from short term memory loss and he is looking for the vengeance of his wife’s rape and murder. Nolan uses different narrative style to intrigue audience and portray his artistic capabilities. Casablanca(1942) is an example of successful Hollywood movie that targets large audience through its genre mash up whereas Memento(2000) is an auteur cinema because it includes directors personal creative touch which challenges conventional Hollywood movies with its convoluted plot.
Casablanca(1942) is a result of studio system. Director himself is known to be conventional Hollywood director and all the actors as well were studio actors. All most all the shots of the movie were shot in the studio. This might be the reason why director Curtiz himself did not get credited for the success of the movie. Casablanca(1942 ) was produced with business mentality, and this explains why director fused several genre together. As pointed out on the course blog, “It’s important to note that most Hollywood films borrow from multiple genres. This is because Hollywood films are made to appeal to as many people as possible, so adding musical numbers to an action/suspense film (as in Casablanca) entertains those who like action/suspense films and those who like musicals,” Casablanca(1942) mixes several different genre to create a large audience base and potentially gross lots of profit. Though regular audience are only likely to recognize romance genre shown through the love story of Rick and llsa in the movie, Casablanca(1942) also portrays other genres like comedy, war propaganda, and documentary. At the beginning of we see the news reel footage which is the example of documentary genre. This footage is also important in the fact that it was not shot by Curtiz himself. It shows the conventional style of film making, in regards that Hollywood is trying to minimize the budget and maximize the profit by doing so. Another genre that can be noticed in the film is comedy. Pick pocket in Casablanca steal from foreigners while confusing them by saying random things. As film takes place during the WW2, it also involves the War propaganda. Rick helping Victor Lazlo to get to the USA shows that the movie is trying to get people of US to fight against Fascism and go to war against axis powers. As film was released during the war, proper time chosen by production committee might have also played role in the wild success of the movie. Though Casablanca(1942) follows all the conventional style of Hollywood film making it does differ from other Hollywood movie slightly. In regular romantic Hollywood movie conflict between lead characters get resolved and the movie ends but that does not happen in Casablanca(1942). In the movie Rick lets llsa go with the Victor Laszlo to United States even though he really loves her because he choose to sacrifice his personal desire in order to let the Victor fight against the Fascism. This kind of little twist and change in typical genre is what filmmakers are doing to keep people coming to their movies. Otherwise, audience would stop coming to the genre movies if it had repetitive plot or resolution. Authors of film- a critical introduction also has similar view point , as they state ,“ Genres thrive when filmmakers find ways to modify the conventions. So, while audiences carry a set of expectations with them whenever they attend a genre film, for most audiences, one of these expectations is that the film will surprise them by upsetting some of their expectations. For most critics, the most pronounced criterion for evaluating a film is how much originality it injects into the formula without totally abandoning the conventions of the genre.”
Memento(2000) is a pure auteur movie. Director of the Memento(2000), Christopher Nolan is known for directing artistic film like Prestige(2006), and Inception(2010). Memento(2000) as well shows the artistic touch of Christopher Nolan. Regarding social context Memento(2000) totally goes against conventional commercial Hollywood films. Nolan challenges conventional Hollywood filmmaking by narrating the Memento(2000) in reverse order. Narration on the film is also fragmented and loosely connected which creates special effect for the audience. This kind of Episodic narration puts the audience in the shoes of protagonist who suffers from amnesia or short term memory loss. Not only that, Memento(2000) has two different scenes, one is black and white and one is color. Black and white sequences are shown in chronological order while color scenes are shown in reverse order. This gives the movie artistic touch and makes the audience think unlike, typical Hollywood movies, which forces audiences to shut off their brain and get emerged in the movie. The movie also has sub story of Sammy Jenkins, a person who also had medical condition similar to Leonard but unlike Leonard he wasn’t able to learn from conditioning. This subplot in the story adds even more twist and makes the movie open ended. Audiences don’t know right away weather Sammy Jenkins is Leonard imagination or a real person. This shows that audiences shouldn’t trust the protagonist or get emerged in his character because he is unreliable; instead suggest that audience should take critical stance. Nolan is forcing the audience to be self-reflexive while watching the movie, which makes makes Memento(2000) different from a typical Hollywood movie. Though Memento(2000) can be categorized into various genre, it most closely resembles to the film noir. According to film Journal Film noir can be defined as a type of genre developed around 1940’s that are categorized by the use of German expressionist cinematography, paranoia, ambiguity, female fatale and corruption. In Memento(2000). In the opening scene of the movie, audiences are shown murder but in a reverse slow motion order which adds ambiguity to the movie, as audience are compelled to find out the reason for the murder. Also after the opening scene, audience are taken to a hotel where audiences are shown black and white scene of motel where protagonist is explaining his disorder. This scene along with all other black and white scenes uses shadows and contrast, which belong to German expressionist cinematography. In the movie Natalie and Teddy trick Leonard into killing a wrong person. As Memento(2000) portrays all the characteristics of film noir, it can be considered a classic example of film noir as it doesn’t challenge genre convention.
Casablanca(1942) and Memento(2000), vastly differ from each other in topics such as Social context, Genre, and Auteur. Casablanca (1942) is a classic Hollywood movie and differs from Memento(2000) in narrative style. Casablanca(1942) uses three-act structure narrative which is driven by cause and effect logic. All the scenes are continuous and lead to the closure. Three- Act structure are typically associated with Hollywood movies. In the movie characters are goal driven and there is certain conflict, for example: llse does whatever she can to convince Rick to provide her transit letter so that her true love, Victor could leave for America and escape from being captured by Germans. Movie comes to an end when llse and Victor leave for America. This type of narrative used in Casablanca (1942) is much different from the Episodic narrative used in Memento(2000). In Memento(2000) narrative is fragmented and does not follow cause and effect sequence. This kind of does not provide any closure but leads to an open-ended film which can be subject to the audience interpretation. By narrating in reverse order audience feel the day in a life of patient with Retrograde Amnesia. It puts us audience on the shoes of protagonist and provides artistic viewpoints. Casablanca(1942) and Memento(2000) also differ on genre and how typical genre is portrayed. Casablanca(1942) is mix of genre but it is strongly dominated by romance genre. Though other genres shown in the movie follow typical genre style, romance genre portrayed in the movie doesn’t follow romance genre convention. It is different from typical romance genre because in typical provides happy ending for the protagonist. This in not the case in Casablanca(1942), protagonist of the movie, Rick Blain sacrifices his love for llsa to keep the fight against the fascism alive. He lets llsa go with Victor Laszlo and they get isolated for the second time which surprises the audience and provides unhappy ending. Memento(2000) on other hand does not take unconventional way while presenting the film noir genre. It fulfills all the characteristics of film-noir such as German- expressionist cinematography with the use of shadows and contrast on black and white scenes, Ambiguity through the reverse narrative, corruption through character of Teddy, and femme fatale through the character of Natalie. Auteur is another topic where these two movies differ significantly from each other. Memento(2000) directed by Christopher Nolan is an auteur movie . Christopher Nolan is known for making artistic movie which makes audience think. From the Memento(2000), The Prestige(2006), Inception(2010) there is same consistency of creative style, convoluted narrative , and open- endings. For example in Memento(2000), director does not provide definitive answer to weather Sammy Jenkins was a real person or imaginary person out of Lenny’s head. It is subject to audiences interpretation. Same open ending can be seen in Inception (2010). Casablanca(1942) is not an auteur movie and is a product of Studio system where commercial success and quick production is prioritized over artistic value of the film. Casablanca(1942) does not show any specific artistic style of the director. It is made in a conventional way and there is nothing unique about it that could be related to the director. This might be the reason why Curtiz is not praised for the success of the movie even though he won academy award for the best director.
With the supporting evidence from the above paragraphs we can conclude that Casablanca(1942) is an example of successful Hollywood movie that targets large audience through its genre mash up whereas Memento(2000) is an auteur cinema because it includes directors personal creative touch which challenges conventional Hollywood movies with its convoluted plot. Casablanca(1942) is a great example of genre mix where different genres such as romance, comedy, war, and drama are put together to produce a successful movie. Even though movie lacks authorship, and is produced in conventional way, it garnered huge critical success. On the other hand, Memento(2000) is great example of artistic film that challenges the conventional film making. With the use of reverse narrative, Nolan gives artistic touch to the movie and makes the audiences think. Memento(2000) too achieved huge critical and commercial success.
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