[Metroactive Movies]

[ Movies Index | Metro | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

Sinking Fast

[whitespace] Titanic
Take a Bow: Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) forge a bond strong enough to sink James Cameron's 'Titanic.'

Photo by Merle W. Wallace

'Titanic' hits bottom in a hurry

By Richard von Busack

I FIND IT AMUSING that Atom Egoyan's upcoming film, The Sweet Hereafter, has been labeled "cinema of disappointment." I found Egoyan's work exhilarating, since it was made with such thrilling purpose and subtlety. James Cameron's Titanic, on the other hand--now that is disappointment. The two films share a common subject matter: a mass drowning in ice water caused by an accident that might have been anticipated, if, if, if. Egoyan's passionate but sorrowful handling of loss easily outstrips Cameron's pulverizing use of computer-generated fakery.

Cameron brings the Titanic back, all right, but it looks as if it came via the transporter in The Fly. There's something wrong with it, as Seth Brundle said, tasting his transporterhouse steak. The exterior of the great ship looks plastic, intangible and unreal against a tinted fire-engine-orange sunset. The interior, instead of being the most glamorous place that ever existed, is as harshly illuminated as a gas station. (This awful glare belongs to a third-class cruise ship: a floating, fluorescent cafeteria.)

The easy way to make a Titanic movie is to roll with the same cruel laughter that poor folks have been rocking with ever since that vast bucket of richies sank in 1912. But Cameron doesn't want to fire a shot in the class war. He unites posh society, in the form of Rose (Kate Winslet), and scrappy working class, Jack (Leonard DiCaprio), in a romance that figuratively tears the ship apart. A flash-forward to 1997 has the elderly Rose (vintage actress Gloria Stuart) telling the tale of the Night to Remember. Her audience is Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton), a treasure hunter probing the ruined Titanic. Cameron chump-proofs the story with Lovett's assistant, the comic-relief character Bodine (Lewis Abernathy), who says remarkably coarse things to a 101-year-old woman. (I suspect that Tom Arnold turned down the part because it wasn't sympathetic enough.)

The screenplay is sievelike, with lines like Rose's put-down ("You unimaginable bastard!") to her vicious fiancé, Cal (Billy Zane), and voice-overs that let us know how our heroine is feeling, so she doesn't have to emote. However, I was glad for the line about the famous musicians on board the sinking ship: "Why bother, no one's listening."


Titanic official site.

Background on the actual event; more historical details.

How the press covered the sinking when it happened.


Since the rich in Titanic don't provide a sufficiently bad example--and, really, what's the good of them if they don't--the other real function of a Titanic movie is to show us some bravely met deaths. The images of the water creeping up or lunging through the glass, leaving people floating, pale-blue frozen angels, make the last third a worthy reward for two hours of tragic romance. The finale sinking, with the deck at a 90-degree angle to the sea, is by contrast too much. It's so accurately staged that it's like watching those true-life death videos of unfortunates whose parachutes don't open. Highlight: the passengers, like human shuffleboard pucks, slide half a mile down the deck to carom off a ship's capstan and bounce. It was not a good time. Titanic is meant to be the biggest movie ever, but as is often the case with Cameron, there is a great sense of spectacle and little sense of intimacy. I found Titanic both too simpleminded in the romantic scenes and too literal-minded in the death scenes.

Titanic (PG-13; 194 min.), directed and written by James Cameron, photographed by Russell Carpenter and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

[ Metro | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the Dec. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate