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Play it again, Sam

A comedy about failing nobly

This is the story of a weakly movie critic whose wife abandons him, presumably because she’s a woman. He idolizes Bogart, a real man. It is unclear whether he wants the man’s confidence or his success. As Bogart’s image starts talking to him, we see nothing of his nobility. An hombre is tough – he treats women harshly, not only the villains. His confidence has something to do with being stiff-necked.

His friend & his wife somehow make time in their successful lives to help this poor guy get a date. It is likely that such attempt must fail, being that people are not particularly inclined to scrutinize their intentions, much less judge them against their abilities. Maybe this is a surrogate child. Maybe the woman is neglected & wants someone to whom to dedicate herself. Maybe the man feels like his wife could do with a dog while he busies himself being incredibly successful.

There is a great contrast between the comic erotic failures & the friendships, which seem genuine. The husband has no problem finding dates to pass on, so to speak, to the guy who turns his friendship with his wife into adultery. These are moral people, so they concern themselves with love, divorce, remarriage, perhaps. There is something innocent in friendship, such that there is a lot of talking done, & laughing, before the feverish sex.

But the critic’s idea of romance is Casablanca, which does not end well for Rick, the character played by Bogart. He learns to sacrifice & not to think of the reward of sacrifice. But this kind of humanity must always suffer from a doubt, that it is second best, that it is the result of erotic failure. Making a virtue of necessity, so to speak. But the audience of adventures & romances does not want to think of necessity.

Comedy makes fools of heroes, which questions the worth of striving. This is striving in the cause of democracy. Popular love of adventure is an implicit acquiescence in aristocracy, in the rule of superior men, if only in speeches. The closest common man & heroic man come is in their failures – they’re both susceptible to be enslaved by love, they’re both faced with defeats from which they must recover, or at least which they must endure.

Defeat forces the manly to reconsider their sense of invincibility, & mocks their aloofness, at the same time as it gives the weak some pride in having had the courage to fight. This weakling does learns how to live with being abandoned by his wife. There is some chance that he is not unlovable. There is some hope. He can nobly restrain from hurting his friends.

One of Woody Allen’s early films, a good show of the limits of comedy.