December 29, 1997 [Titanic]

Drew Carey was on Leno talking about Titanic.  He tells his friends to go an hour and a half late and they'll see the greatest movie ever made.  And he's almost right: As the ship sinks, and Cameron maneuvers from character to character, moment to moment, subplot to subplot--while those extra-special effects flood and tip and snap in half a ship that looks as real as Jurassic Park--I found myself leaning forward and drawn in more than most other pictures have managed.  Nothing--not Lord's A Night to Remember, not even an actual movie camera somehow on the Titanic's actual deck--could have kept me this breathless.  As in most of Aliens and goodly portions of the Terminator movies, Cameron knows that special effects can have a compelling rhythm and their own kind of life.

But what to do with the other hour and a half?  Is it only stock characters and contrivances, its narrative shorthand sketching with far less art than Jack's his love for Rose, and her surrender to him?  I can't tell from here--I stayed for the second movie, the one with the sinking ship, and all I can remember is that I stopped worrying too much about everybody else on board and stared at those young lovers scurrying and trying to hang on.  The moment when Rose allows Jack to draw her--Kate Winslet soft and glowing, showing us how Rose loves Jack, Kid Leo stopped in his tracks to get it on paper before things move on--that short scene hung in front of me while the big bucks were spent on the second movie where the ship rises to land on everybody and make decisions for them, something they never suspected but we knew all along, even before they met--even before the movie was made.  Their romance has no real depth--and neither did Ripley's mother-love for Newt in Aliens; but Cameron sounds fathoms in what seem the shallows.


  1. Wow, serendipitous chronology here! I thoroughly enjoyed the film at the time but it endured the backlash to end all backlashes, didn't it? I've never revisited to see if we were all suckered in at the time - and am not planning on attending the 3D re-release; the combination of technique and timing are a bit icky when you stop and think about it...

  2. I don't think "Titanic" suckers us--it's just so old-fashioned (like "War Horse") that you feel suckered only if you believe the filmmakers don't know they're making movies that could have been released in 1940--or are so cynical they don't think we'd notice. I like 1940 movies, and don't feel cheated when something like "Titanic" reminds me why.


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