Table of contents

The curse of the jade scorpion

A conceit, that love comes by hypnosis

Finally, the insurance detective takes his chances & tries to hypnotize the efficiency expert. This is the problem with love, it would seem, it may not be possible to distinguish genuine love from sham love. He cannot figure out whether she really loves him or was just under a spell. The burden of the story is to show that he is not trying to deceive her or abuse her – he does love her. They are not alone when he declares himself, so to speak – he is risking humiliation, & heartbreak.

He is old, has bad habits, no beauty & very little charm – his wit is quite offensive. But he insists he is damned good at his job. He always finds the criminal. This matters in the insurance business for a different reason than with the police, because the laws are not expected to give you back what is taken from you. Insurance is about managing risks, doing as much as possible to guarantee property.

She is the future of the business, impatient with the work of hunches & insight into the criminal mind. She wants something more orderly & more solid. Efficiency is about enlightenment, assuming that bureaucratic administration & transparency will give people what they want. Then it turns out the woman is having an affair with her married boss – he gave her assurances he would be leaving his wife, of course.

They are first brought together by their business, then by the magician, whose illusion persuades them that they are married. He may be impersonating a priest; maybe the priest is impersonating fate. What can he guarantee? The magician, at any rate, shows sense: He makes criminals of those who already have the knowledge & opportunity to commit the crime. It makes sense he would not a gun himself.

Neither of them finds it easy to believe that the detective is the criminal, however, which says something about the power of morality. Love, however, is immoral, precisely because it breaks through restraints. Adultery breaks the law more than theft… But love does not stop there, it threatens to destroy identities, leaving people unable to recognize themselves anymore. The laws are necessary to protect people from this extreme desire.

The detective is a weak, old, man who relies on bums for tips – catching criminals is lowly stuff, however necessary. He prides in his lowliness, though – it takes wit. In him, the laws outwit the outlaws. The woman who wants order & transparency is an adulteress, resentful of the deceptions practiced upon her, without which she might yet be moral. It makes sense that he wins her against her will, because he does not despair, like her, & respects luck.

Woody Allen’s last good comedy