Titanic (1997), cinematic art or a big, fat cash cow
I'm not going to start this post by asking if you've seen this film because lets face it, practically the WHOLE world has seen this film.
In fact one mother and daughter (who frankly should be ashamed) profess to having seen it an astonishing eighty four times. Yes 84, I mean how.could.you?
I have always prided myself (and you know what pride comes before don't you?) on never seeing this film. I just never got around to it, there was always something better to watch and having never been keen on blockbustery type Hollywood films anyway, I didn't really think I was missing much.
Well you can imagine my horror at being told I HAD to watch it in order to write an essay. Initial stubborn refusal gave way to petulant reluctance to spend money on the damn DVD (it's still pricey you know), so I borrowed a copy from a friend and sat down alone (Mr P point blank refused, ha ha), to watch it.
And you know what, for what it is, it's alright really. Its got all the classic elements to suck the viewer in; romantic love story for the ladies and big, smashy, sinking ships for the gents. Nothing terribly offensive except for Celine Dion singing and a slightly racist view of the British crew but hey, lets not quibble about minor details.
Yak, Yak, pass the sick bucket
The thing is, I still can't understand why it's been such a huge success, and I'm a woman and us women supposedly made up over 60 per cent of ticket sales for this film. I mean, Leonardo DiCaprio is not THAT tasty.
Richard Maltby in his book Hollywood Cinema says its all about a little thing (that makes gazillions of dollars) called the commercial aesthetic. Which is a direct contradiction really, how can art be art if it's made purely for commercial reasons? But it's the stuff that keeps Hollywood in mansions and Marxists in tears.
The Marxist approach to film history states that films are just vehicles to support the values and ideals of the dominant classes. What do we think about that? The dominant class in the world of cinema is Hollywood, do we think Hollywood movies have a tendency towards this? Hey, I'm just asking the questions here.
Take the case of the depiction of the crew. James Cameron has them, with a few notable exceptions, panicking, losing control, killing innocent people, under-filling the lifeboats, over-filling the lifeboat, you name it. Do we believe this to be the case? Or is it just a more appealing way to tell the story?
Compare Titanic with a British film from 1958 called A Night to Remember. What a classic, and such a shame that it didn't do so well at the box office and that subsequently it's not better known.
Now, I bet my life that James Cameron watched A Night to Remember before he started filming Titanic because it's got so many copied similar scenes. You have the same long shots of grand, stuffy dining rooms for the upper classes whilst below decks the third class passengers are having a jolly good time. Surely this is a subjective opinion, how do we know that the third class passengers were having a great time? And interesting that it appears in both films.
What A Night to Remember doesn't do is slander the crew. It portrays them as heroic and brave and again you wonder if this is just because the director, Roy Ward Baker, was British or is it that in 1958 British films weren't made in order to fill huge buckets up with cash. Or am I being too idealistic?? Probably.
Darren will call me a communist and tell me to pipe down.
Who knows. Anyway these are another pair of films that would make a good film review night, watch them back-to-back, you'll find it interesting, I promise you.