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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

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(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 7 April 2012, retrieved from

Cast: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart
Director: James Cameron
Rating: 4 stars
It was a mushy enough love story when we saw it the first time. There’s the beautiful, fiery Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), who’s being hustled into marriage with the rich, callous Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) by her wary, snooty mother (Frances Fisher). There’s the charming, penniless artist Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), groomed into presentability by his well-wisher, the Unsinkable Molly Brown (Kathy Bates). When they first meet, he saves her life. When they last meet, he saves her life.
Titanic, when it released in 1997, was such a blockbuster that we remember every line, every scene, every sub-plot. Or so we think, till we realise upon watching it again that we’d forgotten all about that sidekick of Cal’s, that little girl who wanted to dance with Jack, that chap who teased him about gaping at Rose, that man who ordered a drink even as he went down with the ship, choosing to believe it couldn’t sink, that bearded guy who asked the nonagenarian Rose whether she’d had slept with Jack. By the way, the sidekick’s name was Spicer Lovejoy?!
The hackneyed storyline and the inane conversations have found their way to many a butcher’s board, but as I watched the film, I found myself smiling at the memory of the rumour that our school would take us to watch Titanic. Eventually, the rumour became a request, which was granted. I remembered the hard green seats at Sathyam Cinemas, before it became the hangout it is today. And so, far from feeling disdain, I was overwhelmed by a sense of fondness for these characters and their actions, which are so tied in with my own past.
And perhaps it’s that callback to our pasts that makes the 3D so likeable. Titanic came out at a time when our only shot at watching 3D was a re-release of Kutti Shaitan. I belong to the generation that would squint at patterns on the back cover of a popular Tamil magazine, hoping to find a 3D image hidden inside. So, when Russell Carpenter’s breathtaking camera work is filled out, there’s a new thrill to exploring the architecture of the ship.
The film seems to invite us into itself, to ask us to be part of this story that we’re so familiar with. As we walk into the sets we gasped at fifteen years ago, we’re tempted to turn back and look all the way around us. We feel chills as Rose steps on to the outside rails of the ship, waiting to jump. We feel the panic as the iceberg tears through the ship.
And when we’re not waiting for what happens next, it’s easier to observe those aspects of the movie we missed the first time. Like how believable each of those actors was in his or her character. How it was so hard to imagine them changing into turn-of-the-millennium clothes at the end of the day’s shooting, and driving back home.
The Verdict: Titanic was an epic. And it would be a shame to miss it in 3D, especially when it’s been used so intelligently.


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