While both CASABLANCA and CITIZEN KANE are excellent films, when it comes to battling it out for the title of my “favorite,” KANE easily emerges the victor. Each is magnificent in its own respect, and while I understand the reasoning behind those who argue for the films’ similarity to one another, I believe that it is their disparities that provides the best contrast between them.
CASABLANCA is riveting, but, of course, so is CITIZEN KANE. While the former’s brilliance in this respect revolves predominantly around the proverbial “axis of evil” (personified by the Nazi presence and the shady dealings of the power- and money-hungry black marketeers) and the multifaceted struggle of the protagonists against it, KANE’s suspensefulness is less overt and builds much more effectively than that employed in CASABLANCA. Fall Out Boy’s outstanding 2006 song “Of All the Gin Joints in All the World,” exquisitely explores the clandestine and tortured romance shared between Ricky and Ilsa:
“You only hold me up like this
‘Cause you don't know who I really am
I used to waste my time on
Waste my time on
Waste my time dreaming of being alive
(now I only waste it dreaming of you)”
“Turn off the lights and turn off the shyness
‘Cause all of our moves make up for the silence
And oh, the way your makeup stains my pillowcase
Like I'll never be the same”
The mystery and romance of CASABLANCA provides the backbone of its enjoyability and quality from a critical perspective. CITIZEN KANE’s mystery and misery take entirely different forms and succeed in eliciting a similar emotional palate from the audience as we watch the protagonists’ hopes and dreams being rended in twain. CASABLANCA wrenches this emotional response from the viewer; CITIZEN CANE only coaxes it, and in doing so succeeds in being a much more evocative masterpiece.
The themes of honesty and trustworthiness explored with the omnipresent undertone of an unnerving lack of certainty about the motivations and identities of the characters themselves provides for a somewhat similar backdrop shared by both films, but, once again, CITIZEN KANE succeeds in portraying this in a more effective manner by making it less apparently manifest in the dialogue.
As I must reiterate, KANE is the better film in my view, but this sentiment should in no way cause the reader to draw inaccurate conclusions in regard to my respective view of CASABLANCA. CASABLANCA is indeed a superb gem of the silver screen. It is, however unfortunately, a gem just a few carats short of CITIZEN KANE.