I spent this past Saturday consuming media from the late 90s – Hellmouth Happy Hour was Graduation Day, Part 2, from 1999, and then I promptly went to the movie theater to see Titanic in 3D.
I had never seen it? Like, really, it is a movie that I had never seen. Which I know, I know, nullifies this entire blog and any pretense to pop culture knowledge I had until now. But now I’ve seen it! And like, its completely great.
Like, stupid great. Like, how can you even try to resist this movie? It is just…it’s everything. Its three hours long, and it just wrings you out. At the end, when we were sitting there, tear stained and vaguely shellshocked, “Written and Directed by James Cameron” came on the screen and Elena said, “That guy just punched us all in the face.”
Do you remember in Brave New World, all the stultified people in the future world have to go in for VPS – Violent Passion Surrogate? Wherein they flood their bodies with adrenaline and make them feel all the feelings possible, all at once, before returning them to their problemless lives? Yeah, this movie is basically that. It is the definition of “catharsis.”
Is it stupid and cliche? Well, yeah. Its also waaaay too long – aside from the 5 hour intro before we even see Kate Winslet, there’s also far too many scenes of Jack and Rose running around hallways as water pours in on them. That happens, like, eight times. I just kept thinking what a bitch this movie must have been to make…Also, they use each other’s names, like, constantly. How often do you say the name of the person you are talking to, when its just the two of you? Would you say, once a sentence or more? No? Maybe its a branding thing, really beating these characters into our head. Jack and Rose, Rose and Jack. Jaaack. I’ll never let go, Jack!
Also, Leonardo DiCaprio in this movie, the Manic Pixie Dream Boy. I mean just…Young Leo. Gosh. I remember my dad coming home from seeing Titanic and talking about how beautiful he was (granted, my dad did not do this infrequently, but the point stands. [Yes my dad saw Titanic without me. Sorry!]). He’s just like…the platonic ideal of what tween girls want, and yknow, no lie, I’m 24 now and it still works. It’s still sort of interesting to think about what Leo did after this movie – the Pussy Posse, Man in the Iron Mask, all the way up to him now. How DO you deal with being the most beloved and coveted man in the world, when you’re 22? I bet that kinda fucks you up.
That’s sort of a digression, although really everything about this movie is also about that character – cliche, ridiculous, overwrought, unrealistic, unbearably wonderful. When they kiss in the sunset on the front of the ship? Me and the girls I saw it with all had to hold hands and sway. That song? THAT SONG? It still kills, in fact it kills even more because you can remember listening to it on the radio (the radio!) for a whole year. Every moment when the movie could be restrained or maybe a bit subtle, or it could dive headlong into exactly what you expect it to be – guess which it picks. It’s just like, an onslaught of story, of archetype, to be generous, but really of cliche.
But also, and this is something the people I was with said they noticed more now that we are older, people die. A lot of people. Not just Leo – 1500 people! In ice water, dead bodies being prodded with oars and miles and miles of frozen faces and its REALLY REALLY HORRIBLE. How on earth did this movie get a PG-13, seriously? There is also boobs, and sex! Sex in a car with a hand on the sweaty window, of course. But all that death…it kind of freaked me. Lying in bed after (we walked out of the theater at 1 am. Its a long movie), all the stuff running through my head, I felt scared, and like, tragedy sad. All those people died, horribly! That’s kind of what the movie is about, it turns out?
There’s this phenomenal essay by Umberto Eco (yeah thats right, talking about Umberto Eco in my blog about Titanic) that gets tossed around a bit. It’s about Casablanca, but its also just like, incredibly wonderful, you should go read it (its very short). Anyway, this is the last paragraph:
“Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion. Just as the height of pain may encounter sensual pleasure, and the height of perversion border on mystical energy, so too the height of banality allows us to catch a glimpse of the sublime. Something has spoken in place of the director. If nothing else, it is a phenomenon worthy of awe.”