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Contact Us

Email

Our preferred method of correspondence is via email, though we do offer a full support service for our clients.

In our FAQ section, you can find answers to many frequently asked questions concerning pricing, options, and services. These may also be discussed in our Public Forum.

However, if you have a specific question, do not hesitate to email us here.

Phone

You may request a call from one of our specially selected team members by emailing us your specific query (so that we may put you in touch with the appropriate team member), as well as your phone number and a time when you would like us to call.

Inquiry Departments

Specific questions are usually directed to one of the following departments: General Question, Plans and Options, Asins and UPC’s, Scan Schedules, Historical Reports, CompetitorEye/CE Tool, and Evaluation Candidate. If you have an idea as to which department your question may be directed, please let us know.

Page: https://www.competitoreye.com/Customer.aspx

Client Information at CompetitorEye

If you would like to avail of CompetitorEye’s unique services beginning now, simply provide us with the following information about you and your business, and you can get started keeping on trend with your competition.

Special Information

Your Login name – this will be your unique name, usually your email address or merchant name

Your Password – must be 5 characters in length

Your Email Address – which will never be shared with any outside party

Company Information

Your company information will be held in complete confidence by CompetitorEye.

Please provide:

Your Title

Your Name

Address

City

State/Province

Zip/Postal Code

Country

Phone – where we can reach you during business hours

Merchant – What your seller/store name is on Amazon; this is how we report to you and provide filters

Region – out of the US, Canada, UK, Germany, and France

Amazon Connectivity

This is if you are currently using Amazon.com as place to import, export, and update products and inventory online. Please provide:

Your Merchant ID – which should be found on your main Amazon panel

MarketPlace ID – different from your Merchant ID

Once all these have been providing, CompetitorEye will begin monitoring the Amazon marketplace on your behalf.

Page: http://www.competitoreye.com/CompetitorEye.aspx

CompetitorEye

Who We Are and Who We Help

CompetitorEye is a consultancy company for internet marketers seeking to sell product while competing against other providers. This is usually done on Amazon.com, the top marketing site for competing providers.

While we are not merchants ourselves, we have the know-how and the statistical processing tools to help you gain advantage in the online marketplace.

What We Do For You

We provide you with the necessary data to make a competent analysis of your selling methods. We cannot suggest specific re-pricing and adjustments, but the information we can provide you will, in and of itself, help you to design a successful sales practice.

Using the “CE Tool”, you tell us what active product catalogue you want us to monitor sales for, and from there, we will provide you with crucial trending information.

When We Monitor

You tell us the monitoring schedule by which you would like to receive email or FTP notifications and updates about the current sales climate. These will include notifications when product prices fluctuate online. We can also provide you with historical reports on past sales trends, helping you decide how to sell in the future.

Why Trending Is Important, and How it Helps You

Working with CompetitiveEye, you will take charge of your own sales future. We’ll monitor your competition while you decide what action to take in terms of adjusting prices and sales trends.

Ultimately, this will help you to keep on trend with the internet marketplace, and will show you what you need to do in order to become the top provider for your product. This means you may be able to become the “Buybox owner”, or preferred supplier for product on Amazon.com.

When consumers add a product to their shopping cart on Amazon, they usually do so by clicking “Add to shopping cart”; this in actual fact links them to a default product supplier – or the provider with the best prices for the best value, as seen by Amazon. This is the Buybox owner – and who you want to be, beating the competition.

CompetitorEye is your eye on the competition, and your way to the top.

Page: http://www.competitoreye.com/CompetitorNameChangeReport.aspx

Competitor Name Change Report

Staying on top of your competition is key to maintaining a profitable business in internet marketing. However, due to the frequency with which competing businesses often change their “store-front” names, this can be unexpectedly difficult to do. After all, if you don’t know who you’re competing against, how can you compete?

CompetitorEye provides a vital service in the form of the “Competitor Name Change Report”, which will notify you of updates on a daily basis. Regular clients will be able to access the first thirty displayed with each notification, while premium plan clients will have access to the entire list.

Why Companies Change Their Names

A company name-change may offer a “fresh start” for a struggling business. Competitors may change their names in order to avoid negative press or branding of their products and practices. Less suspiciously, a company merger may necessitate a name-change.

In any case, knowing who your current competition is will help you to track their sales more thoroughly and to conduct your advertising in a more specific, competitive direction.

Page: http://www.competitoreye.com/CompetitorMonitoring.aspx

Competitor Monitoring

The Basis of Marketing Success

Success in sales is measured not only in profit, but also – and crucially – in comparison to similar businesses and companies selling similar products.

This is competition, the foundation of capitalism, and what keeps any one company from controlling the market – that is, establishing a monopoly over a certain business sector. This keeps prices down and innovation growing, ultimately benefiting both consumers and (successful) businesses.

CompetitorEye on the Internet Marketplace

Marketing on the internet takes place at a breakneck speed – so much so that it is virtually impossible for a single business, on its own, to stay on top of its competitors’ pricing trends while maintaining a top spot in the marketplace.

Using CompetitorEye’s CE Tool and historical report reviews, you will be provided continuous updates on shifting trends in the marketplace and price adjustments by your competitors. You can take control of your own future as a sales provider in analysis of these trends and the current marketing climate.

Monitoring Your Competitors

Firstly, you will have to identify to CompetitorEye which providers you would like your business compared to. From a pull-down list, you can select either “competing merchants” or “all merchants” – that is, either those providers who are in direct competition with you, or all current competing merchants.

You may also choose to get comparisons in relation to the current Buybox holders, or the default provider of your sales product as selected by Amazon.

It is important to note that as businesses frequently change their “store-front” names, CompetitorEye displays all variations of businesses, past and present, who may be or have been in competition with you.

Scanning Your Competitors

You can monitor your competition at many different points in time. You have the option to scan your competition currently, or “right now”, as well as for today, the past 24 hours, since the last Sunday, for the past week, month, or year.

The marketplace can fluctuate minute-by-minute, so it is important to know at what rate you would like data to be processed.

You may further narrow your monitoring process to include only providers selling items in common with you, or Buybox holders and competitors who sell their products with hidden prices. You can customize your monitoring process to suit you at all times.

Page: http://www.competitoreye.com/CompetitiveIntelligenceAndTheBuyBox.aspx

Competitive Intelligence and the BuyBox

What is the Buybox?

The “Buybox” is the highly visible link on an internet marketing site such as Amazon.com – where it is marked “Add to shopping cart” – which is actually a link to purchasing product from the site’s preferred provider. It is, in other words, the default seller.

There are other options to buy from in the “lineup” box under the Buybox, marked with smaller links to “add to cart”. Because these links are less prominently displayed, they are less likely to be clicked by consumers.

Therefore, the “owner” of the Buybox – the provider which the site has deemed to be the best in terms of pricing and consumer satisfaction – is at the top of the competition. All providers aspire to the Buybox.

How To Stay in the Buybox

CompetitorEye cannout “re-price” your products for you to keep them up to date with the competition, but what CompetitorEye’s CE Tool can do for you is provide you with all statistics and trends you need to make an informed analysis of your business success.

Once you register with CompetitorEye, you can identify the active product catalogue you want monitored, as well as the monitoring schedule by which you would like us to inform you of the changing market.

Crucially, the CE Tool will alert you to changes in competitors’ actual delivered prices – meaning, what the product you sell is being sold for by other companies with all hidden costs (like shipping and handling) included.

Thusly, you will be able to decide when you may need to adjust prices, like possibly lowering shipping costs, in order to become a marketing site’s preferred buyer.

What to Do If You’re the Buybox Owner

If you are the current Buybox owner, you may feel you have the opportunity to raise your prices and, so doing, increase your profit. The CE Tool and historical report review offered by CompetitorEye will provide you with all the information you need to judge whether this can prove successful.

Pricing Against the Buybox Owner

With our premium plan, it will be possible to automatically adjust your prices to chase the price of a Buybox holder, while setting some of your prices at a constant.

Our documentation and tutorials are currently being fine-tuned so that you will be able to employ this service at the same time as you avoid hitting a “floor” price, or the minimum price you will recognize at which to sell your product.

You can tailor our CompetitorEye services to your own needs for staying on track with Buybox holders, or for maintaining this very coveted position.

Page: http://www.competitoreye.com/CETool.aspx

CE Tool

CompetitorEye’s “CE Tool”

When it comes to keeping you informed about the internet marketing climate right now, CompetitorEye’s most important feature is the “CE Tool”, which provides you with all the information you need to analyze current marketing conditions, trends in pricing, and what’s happening to competitor’s businesses in relation to yours.

This all comes to you in real time, so that you can be up-to-date at all times about the internet market. And with the CE Tool, you also have the option to view historical reports on competing companies’ pricing trends, so that you can make an informed analysis of the importance of certain shifts and adjustments in the markets.

Historical Reports

CompetitorEye’s CE Tool keeps a snapshot of your active product catalogue with ever update and notification, so that you can, at any time, trace significant trends in your selling history.

You can also keep track of your marketplace competitors own business histories in order to track the competitive relationship between you and other providers. You can trace companies’ success through Amazon.com from years ago up to this very minute.

CompetitorEye will email or FTP your server with these snapshot histories, so that you can perform relevant market analysis and adjustments as you see fit. You take control over the information that the CE Tool provides.

The Importance of Trending

The CE Tool will help you chart how often you own the Amazon Buybox over competing providers, thus indicating where your business has proved to be particularly well-received by consumers.

If you have noted from historical reports and current trending that you have failed to own the Buybox or even to appear in the lineup of competitive providers, it may be necessary to identify yourself as a company “in trouble” – and to rectify certain losses accordingly.

And finally, when the CE Tool has shown you to be successful against your competition, you may want to consider price increases in order to maximize your profit.

CompetitorEye will provide you with the statistical information and historical reports needed to help you take informed action on behalf of your online sales.

Page: http://www.competitoreye.com/Alerts.aspx

Alerts

Helping You Own the BuyBox

Product pricing can fluctuate greatly on a daily, hourly, and even minute-by-minute basis on Amazon.com and other marketing sites. With our email alert system, we can keep you in-the-know as to the current market for your product.

As a successful merchant, you have to keep abreast at all times of your competitors’ pricing trends, and this is the most important service that CompetitorEye offers.

By sending you email updates and alert notifications on shifting trends within the online market, CompetitorEye will help you decide when to adjust your own prices and trends.

Following your updates will keep you in the all-important Amazon “Buybox” – the link (marked “Add to Shopping Cart”) by which consumers can purchase your product online – as long as possible.

You “own” the Buybox when you are the most competitively priced and most positively reviewed merchant in the market. Amazon and other marketing sites select a provider out of many others offering a given product taking into account price and consumer satisfaction. To achieve this, you have to stay on top of the competition.

Staying Competitive

Price fluctuations can temporarily knock you out of the Buybox, but you can stay competitive by remaining within the “lineup” of alternative product providers following the Buybox owner.

By appearing in the lineup of alternative sellers, you know you are still in competition with the top providers.

Our Alerts System

If you are being kept out of the Buybox by a competitor, you may want to consider adjusting your prices – though not every shift in pricing trends will necessitate adjustments. CompetitorEye provides you with continuous updates on crucial changes in the market, so that you can stay attuned to only the most relevant trends.

We will not update you on every single fluctuation in the market regarding your active market catalogue (which would amount to a deluge of information), but we can notify you via one email per product every six hours as a fixed report.

We will alert you every half hour to price changes on the market, independent of the final feed report, which we will email you. Once you sign in as one of our clients, all this information will become available.

Page: http://www.competitoreye.com/Dashboard.aspx

Account Dashboard

Available only to our registered clients, on your Account Dashboard, you will be able to:

Plan and view your options

Optimize pricing

Upload a Catalog

Schedule a Report

Manage FTP and Email

Activate and view payments

What to Do When You’re Getting Started

1) First you want to upload your initial product catalog, or define those products which CompetitorEye will be monitoring for you.

2) You will then set your Report Schedule. CompetitorEye can monitor your catalog up to 4 times a day, 7 days a week, though you can tailor this schedule to be less frequent. You can choose whether to receive updates via email or FTP.

3) You can then automate the process of feedback so that CompetitorEye will always re-import your catalog after each report is completed and received. You may choose to add or remove certain merchants and products to monitor as you see fit.

4) Activate your plan and options so that your account with CompetitorEye will stay running as long as you need it.

CompetitorEye Tools and Reports

If you require a specific format within which your reports are to be returned, you may customize them with CompetitorEye.

You can view the top 100 Products by category according to Amazon’s Sales Rank.

CompetitorEye provides a Competitor Name Change Report so you can stay abreast of your continuing competition – even when it goes by a different name.

With UPC/EAN Sales Rank Analysis, you can view better-ranked, like products to your own, as well as potential UPC/EAN mapping issues.

CompetitorEye’s Historical Reports service allows you to see previous and current reports on your competition and your own business, which may be stored online for up to seven days. This will greatly aid your monitoring of trends in Buybox ownership.

We provide you with email alerts as to changes in your competitors’ pricing trends, so you can stay on top of the internet market for your product.

Our CE Tool lets you know what’s happening in the market in real time.

Page: http://www.competitoreye.com/AboutUs.aspx

About Us

History: Who We Are

In 1997, a group of four engineers teamed together to create Scanazon, a consulting company dealing in internet marketing. From the beginning, our goal was to help businesses, large and small, make well-informed choices about their selling methods in order to compete successfully in the selling world.

Initially using a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) system to transfer information to our clients, we took our business onto the internet in 2008 in order to better reach and serve our clients in the public sector.

Now our information is more accessible to a greater number of people than ever, and we can communicate with clients through email and a continuous feed of information quickly and easily. The end result is that you, the merchant, will have the most capable consultants behind you in CompetitorEye.

As consultants, we do not sell or do business in the sense of advertising merchandise, but we provide you and your business with the information necessary to be successful salespeople. We are here to help you be the savviest, most successful salespeople in internet marketing.

Mission: What We Do

We let you know how competitor businesses are doing in relation to you so that you can respond to certain changes in pricing on the market for your product. This will ultimately help you maintain a competitive advantage and to “own” the all-important “Buybox” on Amazon.com.

We provide an automated feed directly to your system containing information on your competitors’ actual delivered pricing. This includes all hidden costs, such as packaging and shipping costs, which may drive up competitors’ seemingly low prices.

By keeping up with competitors’ actual delivered prices through CompetitorEye.com, you will have the best perspective on the market out there.

This service is unique to our consultancy business: others may update you only on your competitors’ non-hidden costs. We give you the most information of the most thorough kind.

We provide report filtering, spot trending, and your competitors’ selling history: all the necessary tools to help you make informed decisions about your business – and to make sure you stay on top of the game.

 

Benoit Magimel and Ludivine Sagnier

Benoit Magimel and Ludivine Sagnier

Happily, monolingual English-speakers such as myself only ever get to watch the ‘good’ French films: translation into subtitling takes time and money – so why bother with anything but the worthy? Two new imports worth your time and your money are as follows:

Claude Chabrol’s latest do, A Girl Cut in Two, and Guillame Canet’s sophomore (but never sophomoric) release, Tell No One. (A Girl was originally released in France in 2007, and Tell No One as far back as 2006. They’ve only just hit American theatres – different time zones, remember – and that matters only because the New York Times recently listed them among ‘this year’s’ best films.)

            Chabrol, certifiably an auteur, and Canet, a relative newcomer, have produced two very different films (don’t let the “in French with subtitles” grouping fool you). Canet’s Tell No One is a generic thriller, and proudly so –  “Hitchcockian” as so many American critics fairly wet their pants remarking. There’s similar mystery, suspense and intrigue: a woman who may or may not be dead, a hero who may or may not be going insane, a fabulous foot race chase sequence across a busy highway, and a group of ambiguously connected assassins. And further ecstasy-inducing to critics is the next oft-made comparison, to Howard Hawks’s inscrutable 1946 film noir, The Big Sleep. Except that Canet wraps up his winding plot – if not believably – then neatly, and to good effect.

            We’ve experienced all the thrills before, but not since Die Hard presented with the same narrative economy (everything – and I mean everything – seen in Tell No One, you see for a reason), and rarely with such heart. There’s even a ‘big picture’ theme – that is, the protection of children at all costs. And even after all the death and obfuscation, the movie suggests how precious and vulnerable innocence really is.

            On the other hand, there’s little ‘innocent’ (or that remains untouched) about A Girl Cut in Two. Despite a comparatively linear narrative – local Lyons weathergirl Gabrielle Deneige (Ludivine Sagnier) gets trapped between two men: the older, debauched author Charles Saint-Denis (Francois Berleand, who also plays the detective in Tell No One) and the troubled dandy Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel, both hilarious and disturbing) – A Girl is rather more enigmatic than Tell No One (which is supposed to be the mystery here), less generic, more typically ‘arthouse’-ambiguous. In hindsight, the whole narrative may be little more than an excuse to reach the final, literal and symbolic severing of Gabrielle Deneige – but as excuses go, it’s greatly diverting.

            Chabrol inserts theme into narrative more deliberately even than Canet has done with his otherwise cut-and-paste thriller. Deneige means ‘snow’ in French, and much is made of Gabrielle’s youth by other, more jaded characters. But Gabrielle is not so much caught between an older and younger lover as between two unstoppable forces of corruption. As Charles remarks early on, French society is paralyzed between dueling forces of Puritanism and decadence – It’s unclear to me (and I think purposefully so) which lover represents which: Paul, from conservative, Catholic old-money is also a masochistic sociopath; and Charles, Gabrielle’s ‘true love’ and father figure, is depraved to the point of sadism. Up against these two, no amount of youthful innocence can survive in Gabrielle.

Maybe it’s a little much for Chabrol to position his abused heroine as national symbol. Maybe it’s a little much for Canet to force-feed his arguably saccharine sentimentality into an otherwise bitter genre. Ok, they’re broad strokes, but they make their point well: decadence is decay, and it’s lovely to watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a question to keep film critics up at night: Where does cinema stand in the art world of today? And as a follow-up, what’s the standing of movies?

 

It poses something of an existential crisis that in the medium as a whole, ‘cinema’, ‘movies’, and ‘film’ are no longer synonymous terms. And though we may use them interchangeably at times, they also carry different connotations. Generally, ‘movies’ are thought to be entertainment, a time-filler distraction to doing ‘real’ work. ‘Cinema’, on the other hand, is a more respectable endeavor, a contemplative, complex medium with the potential for Serious Study. (At the very least, it’s a reason for the Oscars to exist and for Leonard Maltin to get up in the morning.) ‘Film’ floats somewhere in between.         

 

‘I’m going to the movies’ means the same thing in everyday speech as ‘I’m going to the cinema’. But consider the difference between saying ‘Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is a really funny movie!’ and ‘Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is a great example of American comedic cinema!’ and few will admit the last. Well, personally, I’m inclined to think Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay more indicative of a current trend in comedy sequels. But seriously now:

 

We may be too quick to discount or deride the fact (and maybe I’m not helping) that popular movies have an impact on modern art discourse, and that they have cultural ramifications beyond the general desensitization and stupefaction of the public.

 

I think we’d do well as film critics to stop trying to qualify what makes a really ‘good’ film – what separates the ‘movie’ from the ‘cinema’ – and accept the fact that every film, as obviously dumb or pretentious as it may be, is Cinema with a capital C, Art with a capital A and worthy of Serious Study.

 

Call me a hippy, but I think we need to spread the love a bit thicker. They’re doing it in the other sectors of the ‘serious’ art world and it’s time we followed suit. Now, take this for an example:

 

In the middle of a grand hall in Versailles, lined with the usual windows, murals and royal portraits, there stands a gigantic magenta balloon dog. It is called, er, ‘Balloon Dog’, and it’s part of an ongoing exhibition there by the American artist Jeff Koons, having stirred something of a controversy in the French art world of late.

 

Some have taken offense at the display, calling it an insult to the grounds on which it stands, an abomination to artistic integrity. ‘Balloon Dog’ has generated a great deal of hot air with lots of flying adjectives: it’s ironic, yes, and mocking, probably; it’s possibly even beautiful. And whether you think it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ art, sophisticated or in poor taste, appropriate or not for the space it’s in, nobody has really tried to contest the fact that it is, in fact, art. It is art because it makes a visual statement.

 

Now, I’ll spare you another reference to Harold and Kumar, but take the Venus de Milo for a ‘visual statement’. Compare it to Marilyn Monroe over a subway grate in the Seven Year Itch, and what do you get? Two paragons of female beauty from two distinct eras, two visual statements and nothing less than art (I’m being serious).

 

So now we’ve leveled the playing field of artistic legitimacy, getting back to the oversized balloon: Koons’s work betrays – actually, draws attention to – the transient appeal and significance of visual art displays in general – something, I think, that only cinema gets beyond. The Koons exhibition, along with the ‘Balloon Dog’, will be no more as of December, when it will be taken down for good and the grounds restored to their normal selves. The individual pieces will stay intact, but a once-incendiary display at the home of Luis XIV will be preserved only in memory and pictures. The overall ‘work’ will be destroyed.

 

This in-built obsolescence speaks to the inherent failure of arts like drawing, painting and sculpture (which are largely stationary), and even theatre (for each show is limited to a single venue, and every show must close) to stay in the public eye. Display art is, by design, inherently inaccessible, that is, for the most part closed off out of public reach. It doesn’t come to you, you have to seek it out.

 

Cinema, on the other hand, is a mobile art form, but it is lasting, intransient. Movies are transitory, channeled out in every direction to theatres  (which, admittedly, you have to get to first, but at least they come to your general place of being). Movies make an effort to be seen because they want the viewing experience itself to be as effortless as possible. And this has, of course, been facilitated by TV and the introduction of VCRs, now DVDs, into common usage. Cinema follows us all the way home, and now, thanks to technology, we can enjoy it whenever we want.

 

At the same time, a painting will travel only so far as the gallery to a museum, or a museum to museum, or it will go into private collection. It may undergo transit, like a traveling minstrel show, but it is not continuously transitory in the same way as cinema. A painting depends upon a stable grounding in/on which to exist – to be seen and appreciated.

 

Images of it may be reproduced, and those images widely disseminated, but they will only stress the importance of seeing the original with one’s own eyes (‘wish you were here’, as the postcards say). The singular work/image is, I grant you, significant in and of itself, but in its place. It’d be sacrilege to say that the ‘Mona Lisa’ isn’t a credit to the Louvre, where it resides. But for years when it was lost, the painting was little more than recollection, a figment of the imagination of an enigma. Now that it has an appropriately prestigious home, really the Louvre is just as much a credit to the ‘Mona Lisa’.

 

I’ll put it another way: would Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ be anything more than a urinal on a pedestal if not at the Pompidou in Paris? That’s the Dadaist point, after all. Venue is crucial to making an artwork work – that is, a valid, progressive, and meaningful contribution to society. It’s the being simultaneously elusive (that is, far away) and attainable (the destination is, conceivably, reachable) that makes a piece of ‘fine’ art ‘high’ art – high as a sweets jar stored at the top of the press – and all the more intriguing.

 

Movies, though, aren’t fixed to venue. They can be watched anywhere, without even the actual cinema to enjoy the cinematic work. A film requires hardly any time, money, or patience to watch (relative to the effort it takes to get to most other art venues), yet it satisfies quite thoroughly. Must it follow that in addition to being cheap, such amusement is also worthless?

 

Cinema, after all that, is like a giant pink balloon dog in the palace of postmodern culture. There may be as much artfulness to film as artistry, as much kidding and deception as there is revelation, but cinema challenges the very practical, fundamental way we look at art: how we get to it and in what surroundings, how often, and how much we pay. Film, cinema, whatever you want to call it, is even more aptly, perhaps, called ‘the movies’, for they move us, galvanize us to pursue art on a monthly, weekly, daily basis, and we only have to move so far as the living room. We forget we’re even being ‘cultured’ – and that is truly genius.

 

On July 1st, 1934, Hollywood glamour died.

 

That day, the American film industry implemented a strict policy of self-censorship that would limit the visibility of illicit and/or criminal activities onscreen for decades after. One of the particular targets of the Production Code Administration was the explicit and/or suggested representation of sexuality in movies.

 

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) it was the representation of female sexuality that suffered the most under the Code.  The reason: in the pre-Code era, both onscreen and off, women threatened the double standards and social/sexual status quo which PCA religious-conservatives sought to preserve.

 

Disconcerting, perhaps, was the fact that glamour queen idols paid industry bills. Valentino might have been big in pre-Code Hollywood; but Swanson, Garbo, and Dietrich were altogether bigger, badder and more beautiful. Draped with furs and dripping in jewels, they glowed through gauze as carnal exotics but no less high-maintenance. Above all, they oozed a pure, unadulterated sexuality – even (or especially) if the sex was adulterous.

 

Actresses and the women they played polished their charms for fiscal and sexual reward. They presented themselves in such a way as to stand out as successful and yet hungry for more. And audiences lapped it up: men wanted to be with them, and perhaps more ‘dangerously’, women wanted to be them:

 

Witness Joan Crawford in Letty Lynton (1932), all chiffon and ruffles, romance and yearning. Or Possessed by Clark Gable, the next best accessory to diamonds. Kay Francis having Trouble in Paradise and no problem with pelts. Dietrich and Hepburn enjoying pants but no less chic or (in the context of time) perversely gorgeous. And Norma Shearer, just your everyday Divorcee. They define glamorous.

 

Glamour, after all, is about clothes and attitude. It is not – emphatically not – about titillation, or worse, T&A. Jean Harlow might have worn a see-through number or three, some artful drapery from time to time, but her clothes were an accent, a decoration on a beautiful body that could and should be admired.

Glamour is about being a knockout in one’s own right. About appreciating what’s there on women’s bodies, what they choose to wear – not what’s underneath or removable. It’s about how a woman presents her sexuality, not an attempt to (re)create or prove it.

 

The PCA didn’t set out to censor costume per se. But in limiting women’s sexual freedom on film (essentially, post-Code premarital sex by a woman would mean death, jail, destitution, or a dead baby), censors did limit the number of roles and situations in which the potential for glamorousness could manifest itself onscreen.

 

In films released after July, 1934, ‘glamour’ has always seemed a little less glamorous than before. For decades post-Code, when a woman showed skin on the screen, she was usually either a chorus girl (of the Ginger Rogers sort) or a bathing beauty (Esther Williams). Sultry film noir types a Veronica Lake, an Ava Gardner – wore impressive clothing and hair, but they were also femme fatales who tended to end up dead at the end of movies.

And dead, glamour is not. So where did it go? (I’d look everywhere but the centerfold.)

Maria and Chet, the morning after 

John Cassavetes once said of making his first film Shadows, ‘We didn’t know the first thing about making a movie. It was an experiment. I never thought I’d be a director.’ Yet Cassavetes, who lived from 1939 to 1989, pioneered a whole independent film movement in America – even without his knowledge. Nearly twenty years after his death, cinema still bears his mark. We call it ‘indie’.

Fitting to his work, Cassavetes keeps a relatively low profile in film studies. In the past few years, several biographical works have credited him with jump-starting modern indie and underground film production. Of these, Ray Carney’s Cassavetes on Cassavetes (2001), a compilation of interviews with the director, and Marshall Fine’s Accidental Genius (2005) try, by raising his profile, to establish him among the upper echelon of auteurs and cinematic masters. But perhaps it is fitting that Cassavetes be left a class apart – and that it be said: there’s nothing ‘accidental’ about his genius. It was always Cassavetes’s intention to stand out, even if at first he thought he could do it as a star.

Cassavetes’s talent as a performer is, and always was, unmistakable: he played Johnny Staccato on TV in the late ‘50s and acted in The Killers (Don Siegel, 1964), The Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich, 1967), and Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanksi, 1968), among others, to critical acclaim. In those films, his acting genius is fully on display. In the films he directed, however, it is a subtle and self-obfuscating genius that is more felt than seen.

 The roles Cassavetes took from Hollywood primarily financed his own projects and performances in ten self-directed independent films, from Shadows in 1959 to Big Trouble in 1986. Besides financing his art, Cassavetes needed to provide for his young family with Gena Rowlands, whom he met at drama school and used in many of his films. He directed two movies for Hollywood: Too Late Blues (1961) and A Child is Waiting (1963). After them, he renounced the Hollywood industry, and an indie hero was born. Cassavetes is a comparatively unsung hero at that: compared to Anger, Brakhage, or Bergman, counter-culturalists, avant-gardes, and art-house auteurs, Cassavetes’s legacy stands independent of the independents’ canon, marginalized even from the margin.

Cassavetes, like his movies, is nothing if not hard to define. Was he in or out of Hollywood? A lapsed actor or visionary director? Undoubtedly he was a versatile player in the field, and a consummate movie-maker at that. When he had to work with Hollywood, he got over it by working through and beyond it.

 He worked ‘inside-out’ in every aspect of filmmaking, and perhaps that quality best defines his certain ‘indie sensibility’. As an actor, he followed Lee Strasburg’s Method; Cassavetes’s life was acting, his acting, in turn, an expression of life. And the approach translated easily into his so-called ‘direction’ of films: for in that capacity his greatest affront to classic, Hollywood-style filmmaking was, in fact, the denial of his very natural impulse to ‘direct’ or control his projects.

By rights, Cassavetes ‘owned’ his indie films from start to finish as writer, producer and director. He had complete creative control. But the consummate Method actor believed one shouldn’t have to tell actors where to go or what to do – armed with a script and a basic understanding of themselves, they should naturally be able to perform any scene presented.  Cassavetes found the secret to effective ‘improvisation’: he didn’t disguise his direction under actors’ performances – he simply didn’t use any.

Neither did he have to apologize for subjectivity or bias. Often he acted in front of the camera, but Cassavetes disappeared behind it. Metaphorically speaking, he took the ‘I’ out of ‘independent cinema’. Each of his films is a study on the interaction of individuals – but they would be nothing without that crucial interaction, that multiplicity. They are not about Cassavetes, they are about the people Cassavetes sees and leaves them be.

And as he grew more confident of himself as a director, he learned as well that one must take the ‘eye’ out of indie film – in order that it be truly ‘independent’. According to his biographer Ray Carney, Cassavetes recalled falling too much “in love with the camera” during Shadows’ filming. He found that trying to catch beautiful shots only distracted him from fostering the character development that made his films really ‘real’. Thereafter, Cassavetes purposely neglected ‘the look’ of films, and he focused nearly exclusively on effecting performances as true-to-life as possible in every instance.

Unlike a Godard or Pakula, others who got started in the modernist-friendly 1960s, Cassavetes didn’t go in for self-reflexivity.  Instead, he tried to banish his own subjectivity nearly completely from his movies. Maybe the attempt at self-detachment, even negation, is just one more directorial affectation. But Cassavetes never tried to hide; he just saw himself as a part in, and thus apart from, the ‘whole’ of each of his films – he was never above them, pulling the strings.

            From the very beginning, Cassavetes explored characters not readily identifiable – physically, psychically, socially, sexually – with himself. As a young white male, Cassavetes even against his will represented an artificial ‘norm’ or ideal preserved in ideology by Hollywood films. His was a minority still more powerful over the disenfranchised majority comprised of all women and non-whites males – those whom Hollywood largely elided from pictures. Cassavetes’s first indiscretion against Hollywood-style filmmaking was to bring these people to light, that is, literally projected onscreen.

Shadows is about a young light-skinned black woman named Lelia (played by Lelia Goldoni – often in Cassavetes’ movies, actors’ names become characters’ – another instance of his loosening directorial control, letting characters take on lives of their own). Over the course of the movie, Lelia loses her virginity to a white man (initially unaware of her racial ‘difference’), gets rejected, and afterwards finds it hard to open herself honestly, emotionally, to men. It’s nothing to which Cassavetes, a married Caucasian male, could ever have directly related. But it didn’t matter: as a director, he played a role distinct and removed from all others, the facilitator of an independent creation, of individuals, not their creator per se. Lots of directors make films about ‘others’. Cassavetes made those ‘others’ make their own films.

            Cassavetes’s hallmark as a director was his ability to draw improvisations of character from his actors. Not to be confused with improvised dialogue or plot (often a source of confusion) – Cassavetes carefully scripted his movies and was painstaking in rehearsals to achieve a naturalistic style of delivery, but he never directed character. True to the Method, Cassavetes believed emotion and motivation had to come from within the actor him- or herself. Only then could acting be ‘true to life’, and an essence of truth to life was what Cassavetes, the Method actor become director, ultimately sought to find through film.

Representation was not enough – he needed presentation, life living life, not actors playing roles. For Cassavetes, a ‘script’ was more than words, it was a barrier to complete understanding and sympathy between two people (in this case, actor and character, one real, the other fictional). So in a sense, Cassavetes wanted to erase that script: as he explained to Ray Carney, Life begins when you leave the ‘script’ behind and ‘improvise’. With ‘improvised’ movies, Cassavetes offered the public an honest self portrait, a mirror image even, of itself, acted out through the ‘real lives’ of movie characters – an alternative to the heavily scripted (in the sense of being artificially constructed) Hollywood movies that only compounded, by smoothing over or ignoring, the ‘horror’ of contemporary middle-class America.

            The biggest problem with mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, Cassavetes found, was that movies failed to challenge audiences, and that they thus failed to be sympathetic to social plight. Hollywood scripting and plotting had, by the time Cassavetes started making films, become entirely predictable by convention. He called this letting people ‘get ahead’ of movies, and declared, ‘I won’t make shorthand films. In my films there’s a competition with the audience to keep ahead of them. I want to break their patterns. I want to shake them up and get them out of those quick, manufactured truths.’

For Cassavetes, this was not a matter of keeping audiences guessing ‘what happens next’ in the plot – it was a matter of keeping emotions and motivations always slightly ambiguous, so that you’re never quite sure what characters in his films are thinking – just as you’d be unsure of others in real life. The characters onscreen so become real people, the actors are so wholly, really motivated, that they step outside the confines of artificial plot to become individuals with independent thought.

This is the legacy of independent cinema John Cassavetes leaves us: the responsibility of one among many, the awareness of one’s relationship always to others, and a respect for every other’s individuality. And as Cassavetes is, after all, just one filmmaker among many, perhaps it would, with that legacy in mind, be a disservice here to call him one of the best, if not the best, among the independent filmmakers of the last 60 years. But you’re free to think what you want.

 

 

 

Essential Cassavetes

 

 

Shadows (1959)

 

 

Don’t let the indie-quaint appearance fool you: this is perhaps Cassavetes’s most stylized, most ‘movie-like’ of movies. Shots are ambitious, the story compelling, but most importantly, effective characterization and performances make for a brilliant movie in their own right. Cassavetes takes underground cinema out onto the streets of Manhattan and into the lives of three African-American siblings – Lelia, Ben and Hugh – looking for identity in a world both ignorant and hostile to ‘difference’. Shadows takes a revelatory look into the ghastly business of being human. As Lelia says to Tony on the morning after, ‘I never knew it could be so awful.’

 

 

 

Faces (1968)

 

 

 

If Shadows is revelation, Faces is a darker meditation on the emotional paralysis of middle-class marriage and middle age. Amidst the dysfunction, Cassavetes stresses compassion and sympathy, qualities all too often ignored or taken for granted in relationships – like that of Richard (John Hurley) and Maria (Lynn Carlin) Forst. Most poignant is the scene in which they joke over the dinner table and dissolve into fits of laughter – before a single, misunderstood comment from Lynn sets them off, and their marriage collapses. We get an ever-so-fleeting glimpse into why, in spite of everything and no “happily ever after”, they got together once upon a time.

 

 

Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)

 

 

Or, Maria and Chettie from Faces, but without marriage as an excuse for middle-age melancholia. Cassavetes forces the question: what really keeps people from falling – and staying – in love? It’s because we block our emotions up, out and away from others. As Minnie, Gena Rowlands (Faces’ Jeannie) disappears behind big black sunglasses, and as Moskowitz, Seymour Cassel (who seduced Maria Forst as Chettie, previously) wears his hippie heart on his sleeve – and a bushy blond moustache under his nose. In the end, the goggles come down and the moustache off. And we see that a successful marriage is not so much ‘built’ as it is revealed: emotional barriers have to be broken and self-imposed restrictions overcome.

 

 

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

 

 

Familial dysfunction was never so heartbreakingly rendered. There’s no rhyme, and certainly no reason, to Mabel Longhetti’s (Gena Rowlands) eccentricity. Husband Nick (Peter Falk) can take it, but only up to a point: when their precariously balanced private lives meet with disapproval from the outside, Nick finally caves and commits his wife.  But not before ‘reassuring’ Mabel several times that all she has to do is “just be yourself!” Nick fails to sympathize fully with his suffering wife: he doesn’t even know who she is; he only knows he loves her – and that’s not enough to save her. If there’s a triumph to the film, it’s that Cassavetes never once tries to solve or explain Mabel’s condition. He merely bears witness to the destruction all around and within her – and perhaps that’s the greatest tribute to individual selfhood that there ever could be.

 

 

 

Liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto in Schindler\'s List Today is history. Today will be remembered. Years from now, the young will ask with wonder about this day. Today is history, and you are part of it. Six hundred years ago, when elsewhere they were putting the blame for the Black Death, Casmir the Great—so-called—told the Jews they could come to Krakow. They came, they trundled their belongings into the city, they settled, they took hold, they prospered, in business, in science, education, the arts. They came with nothing. Nothing. And they flourished. For six centuries, there has been a Jewish Krakow. Think about that. By this evening, six centuries are a rumour. They never happened. Today is history.

-Amon Goeth’s (Ralph Fiennes) speech upon liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto in Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)

 

The reality is hard to uncover […] No image, no description […] Words fail.

-Jean Cayrol, Nuit et Bruillard/Night and Fog (Alain Resnais, 1953)

 

Out of History: Holocaust and the Crisis of Representation

What, if anything, separates history from rumour, fact from fiction? There are those who would deny the Jewish Holocaust ever happened, who would say that the history books are wrong, that the mass murder of six million Jews is a fabrication, a misrepresentation. There are those who would subscribe to a different version of history, either ignorant or indifferent to the evidence—personal, physical, pictorial or filmic—that stands as proof. And they would rewrite the course of history, excising what we know to be facts and evidence, and inserting what we see to be rumors, lies, and biased opinions.

            But thankfully we know—because our history allows us to know—that on 20 January, 1942, the systematic murder of Jews known as the “Final Solution” became Nazi policy in Germany.[1] Whereas the Nazis had previously documented their (almost) every move out of an obsessive tendency towards self-historicization and mythologizing, there were to be no witnesses to the Final Solution—and particularly no photography or filming[2]—for without proof of death, little proof of the life of Jews would remain. Thus they would be gradually elided from history and finally erased altogether, whereupon Nazi re-historicization would fill the void they had left.

            Again thankfully, a third of the pre-Holocaust Jewish population in Europe survived, and to the Allied victors have gone the spoils of history and historicization. Thus it has become a collective responsibility to ensure that the history of those two-thirds of the population who persished be not erased, and that we bear witness to their existence in order to combat the Final Solution project. [3] But how, with what narrative form, to respectfully, appropriately, effectively witness such an event? For as Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel admits, to some degree the Final Solution must be seen as successfully compromising Jewish historical integrity and specificity after all. He writes,

 

As ontological phenomenon, ‘The Final Solution’ is located beyond understanding. Let’s be honest: In this sense, the enemy can boast of his triumph. Through the scope of his deadly enterprise, he deprives us of words to describe it.[4]

 

So to say, the Holocaust event has been seen to be—in that it has been both witnessed and understood as—inconceivable and too horrific to be written about or understood fully, realistically, empathetically, believably. The Holocaust, that which must be written into history in order to reaffirm the vanquishment of Nazism, and to provide a record with which to warn or guide the collective in the future, defies and denies its own historicization. It will not write itself as historical narrative (as we know it), but we must somehow find a respectful and respectable means by which to express the Holocaust’s full historical significance, without trivializing the deaths of more than six million Jews as little more than a statistic, and without desensitizing ourselves to its most horrific aspects.[5]

            In this essay, I will be looking at two such representations on film, the documentary Night and Fog (Alain Resnais, 1953) and the biographical Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993), as successful representations of the inherent unrepresentability of the Holocaust through classical or realist narrative and form. I would suggest that the filmic form, in and of itself, of each representation is uniquely suited to convey the complexity and problematics of artful representation as the mediation of historical meaning. Both films defamiliarize us intentionally (or not, sometimes, in the case of Schindler’s List) with filmic form and narrative in order to achieve the reconceptualization of the Holocaust as significant historical event. And in particular I will be looking at the ways in which Night and Fog exists always as a self-consciously and necessarily experimental representation of history, whereas Schindler’s List unconsciously presents us with an example of a film narrative always already self-problematizing, by virtue of the very subject it represents.

Film Medium, Mediator of Holocaust Trauma

Resnais’s camera tracks slowly over the crematorium ovens of Auschwitz; we get a glimpse into the dark pits wherein thousands upon thousands of Jews’ bodies were burned. We cut to black and white images of massive piles of women’s hair, and the rolls of cloth into which it was spun. There is a shot of human bones. Then bodies, followed by strips of human skin. They have been drawn on as sketch paper: “Words fail”.

Words fail to convey the intangible horror these images represent and transmit in their very presentation. Thus ‘narrates’ Jean Cayrol (voiced by actor Michel Bouquet) over Night and Fog. And thus he provides a succinct reason why film is arguably the most effective mode of expression/representation for the Holocaust and its traumatic effect on the European Jewish population, more so even than the written text. Holocaust trauma, that which resists mediation or understanding, may be conveyed (and then only partially, most likely) through a medium that in and of itself is conscious of its mediation and complexity, and is therefore predisposed to narrative self-problematization—and this film is: balanced and balancing (or having the potential to be so) between visual, aural, and verbal modes of expression, film is, out of all the media, arguably the most naturally inclined towards ‘mediation’. It has the greatest potential for fragmentation into mediating parts.

            Film is also popularly accessible, and so it should be no surprise that it is a film, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993) that has, for better or for worse, come to signify the definitive Holocaust text in the modern era.[6] A major Hollywood blockbuster, Schindler’s List grossed $95 million in the States, and more than $200 million abroad,[7] and it won seven Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Director, for the year of its release.[8] Nevertheless, or perhaps because of its popularity and success, Spielberg’s film has drawn heavy criticism from all sides. Miriam Hansen, placing Schindler’s List in the context of Hollywood industrial filmmaking, notes that it must necessarily be

 

circumscribed by the economic and ideological tenets of the culture industry, with its unquestioned and supreme values of entertainment and spectacle; its fetishism of style and glamour; its penchant for superlatives and historicist grasp at any and all experience (“the greatest Holocaust film ever made”) and its reifying, levelling, and trivializing effect on everything it touches.’[9]

 

We must understand that Schindler’s List, an historical film by content, is also an historical film in context—that is, being cultural product, it is necessarily formed by and in discourse with the time and environment in which it was made—and it is likely partly for this reason, its being a product of the early nineties,[10] that the film implies a certain capitalist ideology and a perceptible tendency towards the reification and trivialization of its subject matter. From a postmodern perspective, Schindler’s List attracts suspicion because, as seemingly everything in the postmodern era must be reviewed with a skeptical eye, it does not appear to review its own self as text with skepticism, sufficiently or at all. It is perhaps too earnest in its attempt to signify meaning for the Holocaust, and so it may be seen as trivializing of a subject matter deserving of complex treatment. Schindler’s List does not escape its own postmodern historicization; as we shall see, it rather problematizes its own narrative integrity in reluctance to fully commit to formal experiementation—it brings the crisis of representation and the mediation of trauma upon itself.

Modern and Postmodern Reels

Night and Fog, though, for many critics including Andrew Sarris, is the “the only film on the Nazis’ era to have truly transcended its subject without betraying it.”[11] That is, the film may be seen as going beyond those limitations of narrative and narration that would fit it neatly into a particular historical or historicizable context—yet it remains at all points concerned with the representation of the tragedy at hand. Bearing in mind Elie Wiesel’s theory on the inherent limits to representation of the Holocaust, its being in fact unrepresentable within a normative or realist system of signification,[12] Alain Resnais concerns his film with the representation of representation, the problematic repetition of what has already been repeated:[13] Night and Fog is self-reflexive narrative, self-consciously narrated and formally constructed to look at itself—and draw attention to the fact of its looking at itself—as history, historical, and history-making, all at the same time. Thus, Night and Fog avoids the postmodern pitfall of repetition without revision.

Accepting that traditionally the “implicit claim of the documentary is that it gives us direct access to history,”[14] Night and Fog challenges its own authority to speak on and for those Holocaust victims whose abused bodies are presented as significant proof of the historical event of Holocaust. Joshua Hirsch posits this innovative tendency towards narrational self-problematization as proof of Night and Fog’s being modernist text: it responds to the failure of narration in light of the trauma of Holocaust; Night and Fog therefore formally mimics and re-enacts that trauma.[15] Resnais has rejected typical documentary realism, which tends towards linearity and cohesion, in favor of a fragmented narrative, jumping from time to time, space to space, dissociating objective, historical/historicizing perspective from the subjective experience of, and reaction to, horrific, abject images of the dead and the dying—the real that defies reality and realist representation.

            In the Jamesonian tradition of postmodern criticism, Schindler’s List has, on the other hand, often been faulted for being “reactionary postmodern work”, repudiating modernist critical energies and celebratory of the status quo.[16] The charge, then, is that Spielberg refuses to address the fact that Holocaust representation is potentially problematic and self-negative, thus trivializing the event’s historical specificity and the unique difficulty of its comprehension. Compared to the self-reflexive and challenging modernist sensibility of Night and Fog, indeed Spielberg’s blockbuster goes down relatively easily in terms of its narrative progression and temporal shifts. It appears to be at first glance just one more film, a copy of other copies, in the classical narrative mould, a filmic simulacrum. As Joshua Hirsch has noted, where Night and Fog self-consciously interrupts its own narrative flow, successfully representing its own failure at coherent representation, Schindler’s List fails, blending even its pastiched quotation of other films[17] and its feebly non-linear narrative “seamlessly into […] the unself-consciousness of realism.”[18]

            The crux of the matter seems to be that Spielberg shies from grappling with the problematic of time and temporality with which each and every purportedly historical film must be in dialogue. I would argue against this, however: though Schindler’s List does respect, for the most part, linear chronology, with the narrative and the space in/on which it is acted out exerting control over time (as opposed to the other way around in Night and Fog), there are a few crucial moments in the film in which time, space, and narrative progression come together in conflict, subverting the film’s overall realist, temporal integrity. This is not original to the film, of course: Schindler’s List quotes—incriminating evidence of postmodern pastiche—the time-jumping-within-the-same-space technique Resnais uses to defamiliarizing effect in Night and Fog.

To explain by example briefly, the experimental documentary begins with a tracking shot meditation on the view from Auschwitz as seen ‘today’ (that is, half a century ago to us), before the camera speeds up, and suddenly we find ourselves transported back in black-and-white to “1933” and the rise of the Nazi “machine”. Time past thus insinuates itself into place and presence, and several times over in the narrative, we will again be forced back to see increasingly disturbing images as evidence of the setting’s historical significance—it is as if the narrative is trapped in time and cannot progress beyond reliving these dead images.[19]

Schindler’s List’s interruption of diegetic place and time, on the other hand, serves not to confuse or paralyze narrative progression, but appears rather more as a postmodern wink of sorts at the older film, and as a formal conceit effecting unity between the film’s beginning, middle, and end—that is, the story as a whole. The film opens with a colour scene of a Jewish family lighting candles, and after a series of shots that dissolve away into each other, the candles’ smoke in turn dissolves softly into the black-and-white image of smoke billowing from a train. The subtitle appears,

 

September 1939, the Germans defeated the Polish Army in two weeks.

Jews were ordered to register all family members and relocate to major cities. More than 10,000 Jews from the countryside arrive in Krakow daily.

 

The transition from ostensible ‘present’ into narrative ‘past’ is smooth, whereas in Night and Fog it is self-consciously jarring. Even the continuity ‘problem’  of colour disappearing into black-and-white images (which for Night and Fog succeeds in destroying the illusion that “this is reality and unconditional truth” implicit to the documentary/non-fiction form) is ‘solved’ when colour reemerges in a girl’s red coat, and later when candles which the Schindler Jews have lit in the factory gleam yellow. The final graveside scenes uniting the real Schindler Jews with the actors who play them coincides with the return to full colour. All in all, colour film appears to signify either the temporal present within the diegesis of the film, or significant moments of happening having present, extradiegetic import (that is, ‘things we should notice’). In other words, the use of colour film in Schindler’s List signifies signification itself, whereas in Night and Fog colour ‘simply’ signifies transition to footage from another time; it demarcates transition and juxtaposition, as opposed to continuity and perseverance through time.

            But I would look again, back to the first subtitle in Schindler’s List, to find where, perhaps unintentionally, the film may actually be seen as problematizing the very narrative authority it projects in the realist mastery of time (which is a unifying device, as opposed to fragmentary and disorientating). What I will be looking at is likely unintentionally destabilizing to the story, however I believe it is telling of Schindler’s List being rather more temporally complicated and self-reflexive in terms of temporality and narration than perhaps even Spielberg himself grasped or intended at the time of its post-production. In any case, I find it significant that in this first subtitle, which affirms that the story has in fact gone back in time to 1939 when Germany invaded Poland and began its pogroms against the Jews, the tense of the narrative ever-so-subtly shifts. The first sentences being in the past tense, the background image of a train station is thus seen as illustrative of, or supporting to, the text. However, the temporal context shifts slightly when “Jews from the countryside arrive in Krakow daily” is read directly after, and we realize that what we are looking at is just such an instance of Jews arriving in Krakow—the text is now describing an event taking place in the present. The hierarchy of narrative elements has switched from text/commentary above visuals back to the preeminence of the image with which the film originally started. Thus there exists a slightly unstable relationship between the progression of written versus imagistic narratives in Schindler’s List, a subtle complication compared to the obvious juxtaposition of word, image, and music in Night and Fog, [20] but there, nevertheless. Spielberg may be seen as attempting a unified, linear narrativization of a story that exists already necessarily disjointed in two worlds apart, the fictional and nonfictional, in ‘real’ time and reel time. He succeeds in uniting them thematically into the one filmic text, yet the fundamental impossibility of thus trying to re-historicize an event that resists coherent historization and verbal representation at every instance returns like a repressed traumatic memory: the limits of representation and narrativization inherent to the Holocaust event reemerge, subversive to narrative temporality and linear coherence, in seemingly innocuous instances of subtitled narration.

            We have seen that in both cases of attempted Holocaust representation, Schindler’s List and Night and Fog, organization of narrative into linear form, for ease of comprehension or realist effect, is an impossibility. Ironically, Resnais’s documentary, a narrative mode seemingly more disposed towards realism than a Spielberg movie might usually be, accepts this as part and parcel of the abject subject matter, whereas Schindler’s List tries to work around the problem of re-historicizing the Holocaust through narrative with thematic unity and subtle variations in narrative tense. However, at those points where narration becomes necessarily self-conscious—when historical context must be inserted and explained through subtitling—temporal slippage occurs, and the narrative landscape of Schindler’s List becomes, like Night and Fog’s setting in Auschwitz, the site for a displacing, detemporalizing reenactment of trauma on the spectator witness to Holocaust representation.

 

Works Cited

 

Baron, Lawrence. Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changine Focus od Contemporary Holocaust Cinema. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005.

 

Brode, Douglas. The Films of Steven Spielberg. New York: Citadel Press, 1995.

 

Elsaesser, Thomas. “Subject Positions, Speaking Positions: from Holocaust, Our Hitler, and Heimat to Shoah and Schindler’s List.” The Persistence of History: cinema, television, and the modern event. New York and London: Routledge, 1996.

 

Haggith, Toby. “Filming the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.” Holocaust and the Moving Image: representations in film and television since 1933. Toby Haggith and Joanna Newman, Eds. London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2005.

 

— and Joanna Newman. “Introduction.” Holocaust and the Moving Image: representations in film and television since 1933. Toby Haggith and Joanna Newman, Eds. London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2005.

 

Hansen, Miriam Bratu. “Schindler’s List Is Not Shoah: Second Commandment, Popular Modernism, and Public Memory.” Spielberg’s Holocaust. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997.

 

Hirsch, Joshua. Afterimage: Film, Trauma, and the Holocaust. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004.

 

Insdorf, Annette. Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust. Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambirdge University press, 1989.

 

Sarris, Andrew. Politics and Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.

 

Wiesel, Elie. “Introduction.” Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust. Second Edition. Annette Insdorf.  Cambridge: Cambirdge University press, 1989.

 

Zelizer, Barbie. “Every Once in a While: Schindler’s List and the Shaping of History.” Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler’s List. Yosefa Loshitsky, Ed. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997.

 

Zuccotti, Susan. The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews. New York: BasicBooks, 1993.


[1] Zuccotti, Susan. The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews. New York: BasicBooks, 1993. (95) As declared at  the Wannsee Conference, Jews would henceforth be moved East for “special treatment”. In typically cryptic terms, this meant certain death for those selected to the newly built Polish killing facilities Belzel, Sobibor, Treblinka and Auschwitz.

[2] Hirsch, Joshua. Afterimage: Film, Trauma, and the Holocaust. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004. (2) The only extant piece of footage showing the mass killing of Jews was shot by Richard Wiener in 1941 in Liepaja; it shows the murder of Polish Jewish workers by a mobile killing unit, or Einstazgruppe.

[3] Ibid. (6)

[4] Wiesel, Elie. “Introduction.” Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust. Second Edition. Annette Insdorf.  Cambridge: Cambirdge University press, 1989. (xi)

[5] The problem is, and as New Historicism has proven, just as there is no history without text, so is there no text without history. History as we ‘know’ it is indeed based on or derivative from fact or events that have really happened; but these past events exist only in the present as mediated through re-playable mental images. Memories of history are thus rather more re-presentative than spontaneously presentable to the mind, by virtue of their being always already regenerative and reproducible. History therefore does not exist inherently in tangible objects from the past that trigger memory and associations, but as an effected perception. History is not sensed, an ever-present affect, but is always being made and made again in its mental membering (that is, its construction) and remembering (or recollection).

                History, then, is both effect and affectation of those who write it, an intangible thing made dubiously tangible into words. But just as words must be perceived as meaningful relative to personal history, text cannot be written ‘cleanly’ into signification or forward into time, but always back into an accumulated web of textuality. The second a word is written and becomes transmittable into thought, it dies as a word, loses its integrity in signifying potential, and becomes ‘meaning’ and history. Therefore I would revise again when I say history is derived or derivative from facts: history is, in fact, derivative of fact, for history being text, and text being history, it must be seen as entirely subjective, always already paradoxically dead and alive, extant as signifying process, extinct as signification in and of itself.

[6] Baron, Lawrence. Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changine Focus od Contemporary Holocaust Cinema. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005. (215)

[7] Ibid. (214-215)

[8]Zelizer, Barbie. “Every Once in a While: Schindler’s List and the Shaping of History.” Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler’s List. Yosefa Loshitsky, Ed. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997. (21)

[9] Hansen, Miriam Bratu. “Schindler’s List Is Not Shoah: Second Commandment, Popular Modernism, and Public Memory.” Spielberg’s Holocaust. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997. (80)

[10] According to Douglas Brode, Spielberg has insisted that he would not have been able, ultimately, to make the same film in the 1980s, as he would have originally liked. The ‘80s appear to have fostered a too-optimistic atmosphere for a ‘serious’ film like Schindler’s List; but the ‘90s provided the proper, more cynical context, when the quality of life was diminishing, AIDS was breaking out, and racism and anti-Semitism were re-emerging in full force, along with terrorism and corruption, among other things. Brode, Douglas. The Films of Steven Spielberg. New York: Citadel Press, 1995. (241)

[11] Sarris, Andrew. Politics and Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978. (86)

[12] Hirsch, Op. Cit. (5)

[13] One potential problem for Resnais is the reuse of footage from the British Army’s liberation of Bergen-Belsen in 1945. As Toby Haggith has noted, these horrific images have been so often reused in Holocaust documentaries, that they risk appearing as icons both of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust. Haggith, Toby. “Filming the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.” Holocaust and the Moving Image: representations in film and television since 1933. Toby Haggith and Joanna Newman, Eds. London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2005. (33) They could lose their specificity and effectiveness, become trivial. However, Resnais avoids this by contextualzing/juxtaposing the images with images from the present, destabilizing their historicity.

[14] Rosenstone, Robert A. History on Film/Film on History. London: Pearson Education Limited, 2006. (17)

[15] Hirsch, Op. Cit. (24)

[16] Ibid. (141)

[17] Ibid. (144) Among other such incidences, Schindler’s List quotes visuals from the documentary Shoah (boy making a throat-slitting gesture), Night and Fog itself (camera pans over mounds of hair and deportees’ possessions; shifts from colour to black-and-white) and Citizen Kane (Schindler’s Kane-like enigmatic character; utilization of an ambiguous, Rosebud-esque symbol—in this case, the girl in the red dress).

[18] Ibid. (148 )

[19] Joshua Hirsch in Afterimage discusses this extensively as an aspect of “posttraumatic” narration, “a collapse of mastery over time and point of view” that mimics the psychological processes of the posttraumatic state in which the “I” of the present and the “I” of the past are debilitatingly confused, and time becomes fragmented and uncontrollable. (21-23)

[20] Hirsch traces Resnais’s breaking/problematization of the standard hierarchy of visual evidence above commentary above music track back to the modernist preoccupation with narrative fragmentation. Resnais calls into question the authority of the image track in particular, ironically pairing ponderous tracking shots with sprightly background music, for example. He thus questions whether seeing really is believing. (43)

[21] Hirsch (21)

[22] Hirsch (21)

[23] Hirsch (25)

[24] Hirsch (3)