after dark

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 December, 2003, 12:00am

You get the tickets. We've got the plan.

The new 500-seat IFC Palace cinema complex - with five screens and a funky bookshop selling a good range of classics and soundtracks - is the talk of the town. And with good reason, it seems. Finally, Hong Kong gets late-night sessions, and some golden oldies to enliven what can, at times, be a dull choice of cinematic fare.

The main event When it comes to Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, audiences of the past 60 years have united in a much-repeated refrain: 'Play it again, Sam.' And although Hollywood scriptwriters have complained about the overuse and abuse of Bogie's famous line (perhaps with reason, since he never actually uttered the words), countless polls have named the tough-talking actor's Rick Blaine in Casablanca as one of Tinseltown's best characters and the movie itself as one of the most romantic.

And how could it not be, with a youthful Bergman, as Ilsa Lund, breathlessly demanding 'Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time'?

Unlike so many facile romance films that audiences of today are forced to endure, Casablanca is set in a time of desperation in which there are no easy solutions. Although the action takes place in a Moroccan city peopled with refugees from the second world war, it is by no means a safe haven from the Nazis or the Vichy regime, as quickly discovered by Peter Lorre's 'cut-rate parasite' Ugarte.

It is precisely this tension of uncertainty, mistrust and barely concealed fear that provides the frisson for one of cinema's greatest pairings (below). The chance to see them on the big screen is not to be missed.

Today, 12.40pm ($40) and 2.50pm ($50). Visit for details about further screenings.

Of all the gin joints You might as well end up in a classy one, especially when talented Sam wannabes are few and far between. The Chater Lounge (Ritz-Carlton, 3 Connaught Road, Central. Tel: 2532 2059) offers an escape from the sanity-threatening madness of Central, with its comfortable sofas and superb cocktails starting from $65. But best of all, you can kick back and listen to a live pianist daily from 4pm to 6pm, joined by a vocalist from 4.30pm.

Here's looking at you, kid A new alternative in Central is what used to be Moroccan restaurant La Boheme. It has undergone an image change and reopens today as the Bohemian Lounge - but has happily retained its upright piano for the talented regulars who don't mind a tune. The casual lounge serves tapas and mezze dishes. Bohemian Lounge is at 3-5 Old Bailey Street, Central, tel: 2526 6099.

You must remember this Gecko (LG/F, 15-19 Hollywood Road, Ezra Lane, Central. Tel: 2537 4680) may be tucked away but its velvety sofas and well-loved upright piano have made it a barhoppers' favourite.