DIRECTED BY JAMES CAMERON
STARRING: LEONARDO DiCAPRIO, KATE WINSLET, BILLY ZANE, KATHY BATES, FRANCES FISHER, BILL PAXTON AND GLORIA STUART
Thirteen years since its release, twelve probably from everything it reaped and this is the first time I caught hold of enough of interest to watch ‘Titanic’, and although I do not see where the interest came from, I guess I could say that I directed it well towards where it went. And without beating around about the epic proportions of the venture in itself, let me get down to hard (personal) facts and how the film both impressed and failed to do so equally.
What impressed me the most was the characterization of Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), who you could place somewhere between being a man-in-the-making and a full-blown version, thanks to his oversized perception of things: DiCaprio is more than just a perfect fit in this regard. But I think he would mostly be remembered as the blue-eyed boy who you’d wish to be deflowered by, the boy who smiled his sorrows away and one whose death needs compulsively to be written-in citing ambiguities of social strata. That’s a contrast in the perfect sense to the one he would go to swap hearts with, Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), who looks too old to be a girl, too sprightly to be a woman. The ‘damsel in distress’ in short, one who can only be rehabilitated from the position she’s in, imprisoned by stereotypes such as the fiancé (Billy Zane), the mother (Frances Fisher) and the unquestioning, canine manservant (David Warner). In fact, I found myself submerged in a haul of clichés that one cannot fail to expect in a rich-meets-poor love story with no room for refreshment whatsoever. But then again, Cameron himself said he intended this to be the ‘shipwreck movie’ and not exactly the ‘epic love story’, or so I was told.
I’ve always hated tragedy for business’ sake, or maybe I’m just being the cry-baby who walked out with a broken heart. Well, they’re welcome to break my heart, but definitely not just for my money! Still, a thousand and one ways by which Jack Dawson could have survived (with or without ‘being together’) could only have made a less-complete, less convincing venture where the wreck is merely accessorized and not themed around: A spoiler, for all intents and purposes. Nevertheless, I figured that ‘Titanic’ could just be branded as a near-complete movie experience (with gunshots just for the heck of it) as opposed to a sincere, down-to-heart love story, for what is depicted can pretty much be narrowed down to a first crush that is long remembered, because the boy involved is irrelevant in every other way. But still I loved the seduction offered, from the flaming red hair, the lively interiors of Rose’s room and her red lipstick. Ostentatious, definitely, but that’s also where the time’s best spent. Lushly erotic and emotionally half-sincere, ‘Titanic’ heads the list of films like its successor (at the Academy) ‘Shakespeare in Love’ in being impeccably feel-good and tidily humoured, even at the very brink of sadness. But speaking from the viewpoint of the shipwreck though, I could ask for more emphasis and this is one nagging factor about the film: The fact that it is unclear. I couldn’t figure out if it’s the relentless quest of a young man to ‘save’ his love, or the depiction of the most magnanimous wreck that ever happened on the face of the earth. To intend a hybrid raises the melodrama to toxic extents, painfully intolerable.
I imagine Jack finding his death in 1950, perhaps a result of cirrhosis and excessive gambling, which makes me ask why there is sincerity to the love story than to the emotions involved or the pragmatism required to approach the same. Well, maybe then ‘Titanic’ would have ended up being one of those films that ‘promises to be a lot more than what it looks to be’ but then breaks its promise. But what of the promise Jack broke (‘I’m a survivor’), what of the one which Rose breaks, of ‘you jump, I jump’? These questions could seem irrelevant after the experience that the film turned out to be, but I would still insist that they’re vital, probably the only way to open one’s eyes after them being intentionally shut tight by Cameron and co, asking to stay inside the dream he constructs with a $200 million bribe.