NOTES SCRIBBLED IN THE DARK

WHILE WATCHING SCHINDLER'S LIST

OR

WHAT PRICE SCHINDLER'S POTS & PANS?


Everybody tells me I should see this movie. Even President Clinton said so. So here I am.

I wonder what the German soldiers did with all the Pots & Pans Schindler's Jews fabricated in his factory? Did they use them to cook food or to piss in them?

As the old Yiddish proverb says: You have to survive, even if it kills you.

But one must admit that Schindler's Big Deal about Pots & Pans makes the Holocaust acceptable as a mainstream pop-art movie.

This one is going to be big. I can tell. We're talking millions & millions of dollars here. Spielberg does it again.

Oskar is so perfect. A director's dream. He brings such class, such elegance, such savoir-faire, such easy redemption to the ghastly business of extermination.

Oskar manages to buy 1100 Jews by selling his car, his elegant suits, his silk ties, his gold watch. Not a bad trade. Imagine how many more Jews could have been traded and saved if the Pope had sold his fancy limousines, his embroidered robes, his cute skull caps, his precious bijoux. Deus Profundus.

What was the going rate then for a Jew in those days? A Jew for a pot? A pot for a Jew?

I like Oskar's suits. But where the hell does he buy these suits in Poland? Maybe a little Jewish tailor makes them for him before being unmade himself to be remade into a lampshade. And look at Oskar's beautiful cuff-links!

This is a great movie, I mean technically. Since I know in advance what s going to happen, I can concentrate on the technique, the fine cuts, the close-ups, the long shots, the zooming in. I can also concentrate on the costumes and the make-up.

Presentation is the trick here. Oskar Schindler and Steven Spielberg are masters of presentation. And both of them are fantastic salesmen.

Interesting, there does not seem to be as much Pop Corn munching for this movie as with other movies. This movie requires silence and concentration.

Has anyone ever studied the semiotic implications of Pop Corn eating while watching a Holocaust movie? Maybe they should sell kosher popcorn for such movies.

It never occurred to me that Jews could be qualified to fabricate Pots & Pans. I always think of Jews as being good merchants, good tailors, intellectuals.

Interesting how this black & white movie seems so colorful.

I wonder how many people noticed, a few frames back, that the coat of the little girl who is being herded away was colorized red. A touch of red in a black and white movie. What a touch! But maybe it was a flaw in the film?

Spielberg should have used more skinny extras for this movie. His victims seem too well fed, too chubby, especially the women. Also, their pyjamas are too clean.

I found it funny that when I stood in the long line with all the concerned people waiting to go into the theater, we were being ordered about by a young freckled theater employee with a punk haircut who kept saying to us: Schinlder's list the line forms over there, line up against the wall in a double line. It was a brazen command that could hardly have been shouted out by someone who had seen the movie. I suppose the management, that day, had to use the pop corn vendor to organize the mass of people who wanted to see Schindler's List. It shows that people do listen to their president.

I wonder if the Lady-Secretary-Whore who was with Schindler up on the hill watching the children being herded away also noticed the colorized red coat, or if this little epiphany was only for Schindler's eyes?

It occurs to me as I watch this movie that perhaps I should not be watching it. That I am out of place here. Out of time too. Why do I feel so shitty. Don't tell me it's guilt? The guilt of knowing that no one died for me in the camps.

Yet this sordid affair must be told and told again, and shown and shown again, and read and read again, and seen and seen again. I know that. And I know that I must keep on replaying that sordid story over and over again in my head, at the risk of being anachronistic, as Primo Levi put it.

Quand notre sang sera-t-il nettoyé de la saleté d'Auschwitz?

When will our blood be cleansed of the Auschwitz's filth? Sounds better in French.

How come neither my mother nor my sisters made Schindler's list? They were there. I know they were there. There are records of that. I am sure my mother and my sisters would have done a good job in Schindler's factory making Pots & Pans. But not my father. No. My father was too much of an artist, a dreamer, to be able to do good work with his hands in a factory.

What's that sniveling, I hear? Don't tell me people are crying. Wow! Spielberg managed to sentimentalize the Holocaust. Meli-Melo-drama! Are the people really crying or tear-jerking? It's not the same thing.

Oskar Schindler as a character in this movie seems more mature, more grown-up than most of the characters I have seen in Steven Spielberg's other movies. Usually Spielberg's characters, especially the adults, cannot suppress their yearning to get back to childhood. That's a plus for Spielberg in this movie, maybe he is growing out of his infantilism.

Still, one must admire Spielberg for making this movie. I suppose he had to. As Maimonides once put it: Every Jew is like an actor playing a Jew, each gives his own interpretation of the past. Spielberg too has a right to his interpretation -- not as an actor, as a director. But then every Jew thinks of himself as a director of something. I was once the Director of a Creative Writing Program.

Wow! What a movie! I mean the style. It is so calculated. So precise. So in place. So hygienic. Spielberg is really something. A master. But it's interesting to see how he has not yet found a way of making a movie without congratulating himself at the same time. I am not criticizing him. I do the same in my own work.

Neeson is good, I mean as an actor. He has hollow panache, a flat sexy look, a connoisseur's calm, untidy emotionalism with no core, and that spacious face waiting for us to guess what he is thinking. He is tall too. He is all seduction. But I think the guy who plays the commandant of the camp, Goeth, is a much better actor. He is more credible, more scary. Even the fat around his waist is more real than Oskar's glamorous looks.

Still, I must admit that the glibness and the beauty of this movie are for a good cause. This movie is educational. And besides, Americans are so easily moved to tears. Americans tear-jerk at the least bit of emotional disturbance.

Schindler's list makes people weep tears of gratitude. But how can anyone be grateful for the Holocaust? Yes, this movie makes people feel good about the Holocaust. Hard to believe that one can feel good about such an unforgivable enormity. But then this is just a story with a happy ending. The Holocaust is used here only as a backdrop to a great piece of fiction.

Me, usually, when watching a movie, I wonder how they do it? How they fool me, how they make me believe that the little boy who just got shot by Goeth is really dead and not faking it. After all I heard the sound of the bullet leave the gun and heard it enter the little boy's skull. I saw the crushed skull, and the blood, even though shown in black & white. I heard that, I saw that. Or was it an illusion?

It was said that Jews were in third place on the list of the people Americans feared most. Germans were first and Japanese second. This, of course, was said during the Holocaust, while the final solution was going on. Why am I thinking of this in the middle of this movie?

Maybe such events as the Holocaust should never be re-created, so that we can only judge them, look at them in the way spies look at secret documents.

Still there is news here for the young and the ignorant, and there is also the pleasure of great film making craft, alas.

Why am I constantly confusing this movie with Jurassic Park? Is it because both movies are about extinction? Or rather because both are an effort, alright a vain effort, to bring back into the light what has been extinguished?

Stern. What a name for an accountant. Perfect. I like Stern. But how much truer the relationship between Schindler and his accountant would have been if at the end Oskar would have walked away from Stern without shaking his hands, without recognizing the bond of ... of what? Yes, how much more in character it would have been for Schindler to casually laugh off the whole thing -- the bond with Stern, and the Pots & Pans.

Why do I keep thinking in the middle of all these Pots & Pans what a tough little great survivor Primo Levi was, before he cracked.

Can humanity continue to exist without redemption? No, I mean, can movies, Hollywood movies really work without redemption?

Spielberg & Schindler -- SS & OS -- in this movie are willing to go inside the gas chambers and look around because they know they can come out. Could I do that?

I suppose it's inevitable now that Holocaust T-shirts are going to pop up all over the place, and also Holocaust victim dolls, Holocaust toys, Holocaust bumper-stickers, Holocaust Pots & Pans. Well, all that will help the economy. Hey maybe that's why the President urged people to go see this movie.

Interesting how today the people are staying to read the credits at the end. I always wonder why so often these days they give us the credits at the end? Maybe it's because at the beginning they want to plunge us into the action as quickly as possible. But then a lot of people walk out on the credits. You can't have your cake and eat it too. But today everybody is still here, still sitting or standing, reading the credits. Maybe they feel they missed something. That there is more to this story.

I am out of here.

Oh wait ... wait ... what's that? An Amblin Entertainment -- copyright 1994. Now that's interesting. You mean to tell me that Schindler's List was produced by an entertainment company? That's a good one.

Wow was it hot in there.


AFTERTHOUGHT

Is it possible that during the many visits I made to Germany since the War, I accidentally passed in the streets of Berlin or Munich or some other Burg the person who pushed my mother into the gas chamber? Or that I sat in a restaurant or at a concert (a Wagner opera -- I am a fanatic of Wagner's operas) next to the man who beat my father to death with the butt of his rifle? Or that in a comfortable first class compartment of the ultra-rapid ICE train I sat across the former SS who raped my sisters before strangling them? Oh what a horrible thought.


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