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Monday, April 27, 2009

Titanic (1997)

Rated: PG-13 for disaster related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language.
Runtime: 3 hrs 14 mins
Genre: Dramas
Theatrical Release:Dec 19, 1997 Wide
Worldwide Box offices : $1,835,300,000
Titanic is the longest Canadian Heritage Minute in the history of the medium. It's cute, it's semi-educational, it's not terribly convincing, and it's something you could only take in small doses, which, as you are probably aware, are not the amounts recommended by the film's three-hours-and-then-some running length. It's not an especially disgraceful film, but it's very dull, and I'm safe in saying that I won't be seeing it again any time soon.

By now, you must be familiar with the plot: Upper-class girl (Kate Winslet) starts romance with plucky lower-class boy (Leonardo DeCaprio). Girl's fiancee (Billy Zane, pleasingly hammy) feels slighted, and problems arise. Meanwhile, there's this iceberg... but if you're half the movie person I think you are, you can fill in the blanks here. Cliches, of course, fly fast and furious; most entertaining is the scene where Winslet and Zane fight over her cubist and post-impressionist art finds ("What's his name- Picasso? He'll never amount to anything!"), but this is nearly matched by the "D.H. Lawrence" scene, where a lower-class hoedown is intercut with an aristocratic dinner to show that the lower classes are just so much fun. Never mind that they're largely invisible for the bulk of the film- they've got the scene, man!

Even if you don't know much about the period, it's obvious at an early interval that Cameron doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. There's a bizarre coarseness to the dialogue, unlikely to be adopted by snooty upperclassers, (even Winslet) and scenes that you instinctively know wouldn't happen (the loogie-hocking tournament leaps to mind). Cameron is insane to suggest that his junior-high comic-book scribblings would be mistaken for art by the Picasso-and-Monet loving Winslet; it's as if Winslet had been instructed to buy the paintings from somewhere else while secretly digging the latest X-Men. Worse still, Cameron tries to score points with feminists by making Winslet a gusty modern girl; never mind that there's only one sexist male in the whole film, and that the rest of her tormenters are women like her mother. The film disturbs your viewing, because its thesis shifts gears so frequently and it challenges your sense of the time so drastically that it shatters its own illusion.
Things, I will admit, pick up considerably in the final quarter of the film, when Cameron finally gets the wherewithal to cause some serious property damage; It's only here that the movie feels like a movie. Cameron's completely out of his element when he deals with posh dinners and high society- there's nothing for him to film, because he doesn't understand the beauty of gestures and people. He's a man with a God complex, which means that he is less interested in his tinny little Stanley Kramer plot than he is with dishing out the nasties to the passengers and smashing big machines.
Now, before you all start to come at me with knives and pick-axes, I should pause to admit that Titanic has an important archetypal image in its favor. Subconsciously, it's the first epic of the recession, a film in which the rich bail out first and the poor are left with the mess they made. The Titanic becomes a symbol of technology specifically designed to stratify the classes (Microsoft, anyone?) while the scrambling of the crowds at the end of the film can be boiled down to the hapless masses who are shut out of the new global economy and have to survive, or not survive, any way they can. Like no other movie, Titanic taps into our collective anxiety about the new, bleak economy (and technology), and this, I think, is a crucial factor in the film's runaway success.
Pity, then, that there's no real follow-through on this provocative premise. For all the mucky-muck about the bad old rich people, there's not a hell of a lot of attention paid to the lower orders. It's mostly a long pan through the deeply posh interior of the aristos' quarters; crucially, the film is seen through the eyes of its rich (if virtuous) survivor, and Cameron can't bring himself to create a raft of working-class characters as significant as Billy Zane's enjoyably campy louse. (Even the nouveau-riche Molly Brown is there for show and not for plot.)
Aside from being a dullard, Cameron is also a pretty bad liar; there's no way that anyone can break the record for biggest-budgeted American film three times in a row can say this kind of dollar-store Marxism without being seriously deluded. Furthermore, despite the ostensibly anti-tech message of many of his films, particularly the Terminator films, there is a suspicious amount of pricey hardware floating around these pictures. Could it be that the Big Ideas in Titanic are a tad inflated? Could they possibly be a cover for the less pretty aspects of big-budget film production- like taking the anxiety of the masses and selling it back to them for a hefty profit?
I'm very sorry, but I have great difficulty in accepting the notion of a benevolent special-effects extravaganza, at least as far as Titanic's argument goes. The logical conclusion of this story is a repudiation of the society of the spectacle; the Titanic seen as an example of distraction from the social divisions that seethe within its hull. But the film is all too eager to give good hardware, and there's a distinct emptiness to its indictment of the technocracy; there was never a film that bought into the we-shall-move-mountains school of design than this one. When the chips are down, Titanic is a bad musical without numbers (The Drowned of Music!), the work of a man with a God complex who wants to build and destroy a boat while getting leftist points on the side.

Featuring spectacular special effects set amidst the backdrop of one of the most tragic events of the 20th century, James Cameron's award-winning TITANIC stands as one of the greatest Hollywood... Featuring spectacular special effects set amidst the backdrop of one of the most tragic events of the 20th century, James Cameron's award-winning TITANIC stands as one of the greatest Hollywood spectaculars of all time. Beginning with an undersea expedition in the 1990s, in which scuba divers are searching the sunken ship for lost relics, a painting of young Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is found. This triggers a flashback to the young woman's story as it happened on the doomed Titanic. Rose is a daughter of privilege on her way to be married to an arrogant but wealthy young man (Billy Zane). Despairing, Rose finds herself falling in love with Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a carefree and poor young artist who is also aboard. When the great ship strikes an iceberg and begins to sink, Rose and Jack have only each other as their world falls apart around them. Director James Cameron spared no expense in bringing his simple yet powerful love story to life, building a 90% scale model of the ship, fussing over the tiniest details, and ultimately spending some $200 million dollars. A worldwide smash, TITANIC received fourteen Academy Award nominations and 11 wins, including Best Picture. Despite all the lavish sets and special effects, the film would be nothing without the emotional core provided by stars Winslet and DiCaprio, who give star making performances as the tragic young lovers.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, Danny Nucci, David Warner, Bill Paxton, Gloria Stuart, Victor Garber, Suzy Amis, Lewis Abernathy, Nicholas Cascone, Anatoly M. Sagalevitch, Jason Barry, Ewan Stewart, Ioan Gruffudd, Jonathan Phillips, Mark Lindsay Chapman, Richard Graham, Paul Brightwell, Ron Donachie, Eric Braeden, Charlotte Chatton, Bernard Fox, Michael Ensign, Fannie Brett, Jenette Goldstein, Camilla Overbye Roos, Linda Kerns, Amy Gaipa, Martin Jarvis, Rosalind Ayres, Rochelle Rose, Jonathan Evans-Jones, Brian Walsh, Rocky Taylor, Alexandria Owens, Simon Crane, Edward Fletcher, Scott G. Anderson, Martin East, Craig Kelly, Gregory Cooke, Liam Tuohy, James Lancaster, Elsa Raven, Lew Palter, Reece P. Thompson, Laramie Landis, Alison Waddell, Amber Waddell, Mark Rafael Truitt, John Walcutt, Terry Forrestal, Derek Lea, Richard Ashton, Sean Nepita, Brendan Connolly, David Cronnelly, Garth Wilton, Martin Laing, Richard Fox, Nick Meaney, Kevin Owers, Mark Capri, Marc Cass, Paul Herbert, Emmett James, Christopher Byrne, Oliver Page, James Garrett, Erik Holland, Jari Kinnunen, Anders Falk, Martin Hub, Seth Adkins, Barry Dennen, Vern Urich, Rebecca Jane Klingler, Tricia O'Neil, Kathleen S. Dunn, Romeo Francis, Mandana Marino, Van Ling, Bjorn, Dan Pettersson, Shay Duffin, Greg Ellis, Diana Morgan
Director: James Cameron
Producer: James Cameron
Screenwriter: James Cameron
Composer: James Horner
Studio: Paramount Pictures



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