Friday, December 19, 2014

Casablanca the Series: Divorce Casablanca Style Review


It's almost a pity that Casablanca finally hit on a semi-decent episode at this point.  Divorce Casablanca Style isn't good, but a.) given its competition and b.) given it had some actual moments of tension, it is far and away the best in a bad lot.

That, however, is a sad commentary no matter how you cut it. 

A Muslim woman comes to Rick's Café Americain to plead with her husband Hassan, a respected member of the community.  He is angry with her, and divorces her in front of everyone...maybe.  The Islamic law states that the husband must declare "I divorce you" three times to be official.  Here is where the difficulties are.  There is a question as to whether Hassan made the "I divorce thee" declaration THREE times or just two.  This is not some subject for debate, but a fine legal point, because if it was three times, then as a divorced woman she is free to do what she has done.

Amira (Persis Kambatta) decides to ditch the traditional coverings, wear European clothes, and get a job as a guide.  This outrages the Moroccan community, which would like her to remain in poverty and squalor since she cannot find a husband (due to her not being a virgin, which is tough to be if you're a divorcee), and is shunned by her family.

HOWEVER, if Hassan said it only two times, then she is still married, and thus, can't go around doing what she's been doing.

Major Strasser (Paul Horgan) wants at first for her to report what the tourists say, but when she tells him a joke they made ("The Germans are brave enough to fight the British to the last Italian", though it is unclear if she 'doesn't' get the joke), his adjutant Lieutenant Heinz (Kai Wulff) wants her to spy on Rick Blaine (David Soul).  She doesn't want to, but he forces her hand.

Eventually, Amira and Carl (Arthur Malet) are dragged to Islamic court, where she is accused of adultery with Rick (Carl just being unfortunate enough to be with her when she is taken by her brother-in-law Omar, the whitest Moroccan in history).  After a lot of pressure, she admits to adultery, but with Heinz.  It's a diversionary tactic to save Rick, who has been generous to her (and for once doesn't either sleep with or try to sleep with the woman).  Hassan is willing to forget the whole thing, and Heinz is perfectly happy to not raid a café with Resistance people because the locals suspect he's been a naughty figure.

What puts Divorce Casablanca Style ahead of all the other Casablanca episodes is that for a few moments there is an actual sense of tension.  Carl and Amira have to get somewhere and are waylaid by her family, thus leaving audiences wondering when and how and if they will manage to get out of the situation. 

Everything else here pretty much is standard Casablanca style: badly.  We throw in the negative images of the Arab/Islamic community as these sexist, bigoted men and generally weak, subservient women.  It doesn't help when you cast Anglo actors as these 'Arabs', making the thing look even more ridiculous.

Divorce Casablanca Style wasn't exciting (apart from when Amira and Carl are abducted).  That gives the episode a bit of a lift, but by now we see that in terms of execution and planning, Casablanca was beyond salvation. 


Casablanca the Series: Concluding Thoughts

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