Thursday, June 15, 2017

Titanic: The Titan of Movies

GUEST WRITER, N.C., Esq.


I was very skeptical regarding the glowing reviews of Titanic (1997) which led to a breathtaking and improbable sweep of the Oscars, winning 11 out of 14 categories, which had me choke on my chocolate martini at that time. I am also very particular of how I spend my time, so I didn't watch the movie until September 2012, with the release of the new 3D version.

Since I'm very interested in the technology of 3D, I reluctantly pencilled this into my very demanding schedule. Looking back in my Moleskine calendar, it was September 15, 2012, a day I will never forget. After the movie, I came out thinking that Titanic was robbed, and should have won the last 3 Oscar categories. How can Kate Winslet NOT win Best Actress, the luminary Gloria Stuart should have clearly won Best Supporting Actress, and I'm truly appalled that this film did not pick up Best Makeup. I was also angered that Titanic did not do as commercially well as the overblown Gone With the Wind, making only 2.5 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation, 2014). Does this demonstrate that only critics (who universally lauded the film) have good taste compared to the General Public and the Awards Committees? I would dare say so.


Braque, Man with a Guitar, 1911
The movie evokes Greek Mythology at its most traumatic and tragic. I felt that this movie is the modern day Cassandra. The Titanic ended up sinking in real-life (as analogous to Cassandra's predictions), but during the movie, I felt that there is no way that this ship can sink. The movie really honed in that idea to the point where I questioned reality. Indeed, the Cubist portrayal of the verticality of the ship before sinking was so improbable, that the opposite conclusion was felt: yes, historians MUST have made up the fact that it truly sunk for good back in April 1912.

Again, I was struck regarding the invocation of Cubism, as I wonder, do ALL masterpieces have cubist elements, from Breath of the Wild (easily argued as the best video game of all time) to now Titanic? In fact, Braque's Man with a Guitar was composed one year earlier to the sinking, foreshadowing this worst of tragedies. I feel that evocation of Cubism is a major theme in masterpieces.

I literally gasped (along with all the audience members in the packed theater) when, near the end, the film's rendition of the Titanic went vertical, and then sunk. I was shocked when reality struck me, with the revelation that the Titanic really occurred, unfortunately. Not since the Greek dramatist, Aeschylus, has a work of art encapsulated human misfortune so poignantly.

The roles of Jack and Rose were masterfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and they sizzled on screen. I took heed of the warning of the movie theater, that in case of a fire, do NOT run, but walk to the emergency exit, so steamy was their chemistry. If I can bottle that level of chemistry, this would be an aphrodisiac that actually works. I'm not one to swoon over actors, but, yes, I was quite jealous that I (instead of the amazingly lucky Ms. Winslet) was NOT the one being painted by the handsome (quite an understatement) DiCaprio. I checked my blood pressure and glucose readings during film as I swooned and fainted multiple times. So perhaps, in a Schadenfraude way, I took some small comfort that Winslet did not win Best Actress. However, at the same time, should not the Awards Committee be more objective and award what is due to Ms. Winslet? I feel this demonstrates that Awards, symbolizing crash commercialism, should not be used to judge Art anymore.

Billy Zane's dastardly depiction of the villain, Caledon Hockley, was quite subtle. I thought that he was Rose's clear choice (though I had some inkling that he was not a good man), and surprised at the twist, when it was revealed near the end of the film, that Jack was in fact Rose's one true love (?!??). Usually, in these triangular situations, the woman's love interests feature one extremely noble gentleman, and the other, a true rogue, so it's quite clear who the woman would chose. Not so in Titanic. The movie's eschewing this predictable trope is another demonstration of its brilliance. I have never seen such nuance since Mann's Buddenbrooks. In the future, Zane, such an under-appreciated actor, deserves more leading roles.

This film made me a better woman: after the viewing, I made a resolution to be more open-minded and not so quick to judge if I haven't experienced the work. I think when a film can change your perspective and how you view things, that's a mark of a masterpiece. Titanic deserves its accolades and more, truly a Titan amongst Titans.

-N.C., Esq.

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