The Heart Of Dramatist

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 23 2013 @ 8:49am

Citing the success of Casablanca, David Mamet contemplates the role of the dramatist:

A man thinks he’s getting over a problem, the problem reasserts itself (Bergman shows up), he tries to deal with it through revenge and then through fantasy (they can pick up where they left off), but finds these do not answer the question. The question is, “How does one deal with Betrayal?” He has tried distance, rage, and alcohol, and they do not work. The true solution, he finds, is, “DO NOT BETRAY OTHERS.” The answer, then, is found because the hero reformulates the question. It used to be, “What do I do about Ingrid Bergman?” but the deeper question, which alone has an answer, is, “WHAT KIND OF MAN AM I?”

This is great melodrama. … The lazy drama informs us, at the end, “It was in you all the time!” This is handy as a way to get offstage, but, as anyone who’s ever talked to a mediocre counselor will tell you, “It just ain’t helpful.” For the essential question is, “WHAT was in me all the time?”

He goes on to discuss the melodrama in Phil Spector, the HBO film written and directed by Mamet that premieres tomorrow. Matt Zoller Seitz slams the film:

Mamet has always had a thing for righteous macho martyrs — see Oleanna, about a professor whose pending tenure is scuttled when he is accused of sexual harassment by an ambitious young female student*, and Hoffa, which compared the mobbed-up labor leader to Jesus and wasn’t remotely joking — but now that he’s entered a right-wing troll phase of his career, he’s cranked up the persecuted truth-teller affectation to the point where you can picture Mel Gibson talking him off a ledge. I’m pop-psychoanalyzing Mamet here not because I particularly enjoy it, but because Phil Spector’s tone and thesis are so out-of-nowhere weird that it doesn’t really make sense as anything but an example of an artist projecting himself onto another artist and saying, “I feel you, bro.”