Monday, November 19, 2007
Toward the end of Casablanca, after Rick (Humphrey Bogart) told Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) that if she didn't leave with her husband (Paul Henreid) she would regret it ("maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life"), after Rick shoots Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) to prevent him from interfering with the plane carrying them from leaving, Rick and Captain Renault (Claude Rains) stand and contemplate the situation. Renault pulls out a bottle of water labeled Vichy Water, opens it, and pours a glass. He then looks at the bottle in disgust and throws it in the wastebasket, showing that even so corrupt and jaded an official as he is can't continue to collaborate with the Vichy regime and the Nazis whose puppet it is. It's a great symbolic (if not very subtle) moment in the film, and I had always assumed that the Vichy Water was just a prop. It turns out that it's not. Vichy Water was apparently a generic term for naturally carbonated mineral water, named after such water coming from Vichy long before it became the capital of Petain's regime. I'm fairly sure that it is still possible to get Vichy Water that's actually from Vichy, but I was unsuccessful. I did, however, find some Vichy Catalan water, which comes from a spring near Barcelona and has been bottled commercially since 1890. Yup, it's mineral water, all right: my palette isn't the most sensitive, but even it can detect the saltiness. Not unpleasant, mind you, but present nonetheless. I probably won't buy it again, but it was worth it to be able to write about Casablanca.
Speaking of Casablanca, have you noticed what a superlative propaganda film it is? I don't mean that pejoratively, given the cause that it was propagandizing for. Even today, if you can watch the dueling Die Wacht am Rhein - La Marseillaise scene and not be ready to enlist to kick the jackbooted minions of Hitler out of France, you have no heart: