Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MOVIES: #22 Titanic

It was long, ponderous and schmaltzy. I watched it at the theatre with my young niece, leaving the first screening because it was out of register. In other words, I had every reason to dislike Titanic when it came out in 1997.

And here it is, sitting just outside the top twenty of my most favourite movies of the 20th century.

By now, we must all admit that Kate Winslet is THIS century's Meryl Streep. She can play a variety of roles and invest our interest and admiration in her work. This might be early Winslet, but it's good Winslet. I usually find Leonardo DiCaprio off-putting, but he tones down the artifice to play a common man with a common dream. He seeks to rise above his station and that desire intensifies when he finds Winslet's Rose.

The story, told in grand gestures and broad strokes, is known to all. The term ill-fated is almost tied permanently to the story of the Titanic. The knowledge that SOME survived the sinking of the unsinkable, fuels the hopes in the viewers that the love that blooms between Rose and DiCaprio's Jack will live to blossom further. In reality, the framing sequence puts paid to the idea, but viewers will feverishly work out scenarios where they hope to be wrong.

Titanic is also an action masterpiece, centering around the long sinking sequence. All of it is spectacular in the hands of James Cameron, who knows special effects inside and out. And the music is pretty good, even if you have a decided non-preference for Celine Dion, the Canadian ballad-belter.

But the reason to watch Titanic, in my mind, remains the framing sequence's end. Gloria Stuart, Oscar-nominated, elicits a tear at the end, even from a mean old coot like me. I daresay, it would be inhuman to avoid tearing up.

Titanic earned its spot atop the money heap of movie history and its place in my favourites list.

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