Titanic in 3D

22 Feb

Whether viewed in two dimensions or three, Titanic abounds in clichés. That’s what love stories do. All the good ones anyway; the ones that do what it says on the tin. Think West Side Side Story, aka Romeo and Juliet. Think Mills & Boon, aka Pride and Prejudice. Think Casablanca.

When I saw Titanic in 1997, it was my first exposure to Kate Winslet. I liked what I saw and my admiration grew when, teaching Photoshop at Sheffield Uni a few years later, I gave a talk on how icons of the gob-smackingly gorgeous are enhanced in the digital darkroom to endow a literally unattainable beauty. One example was Kate, whose thighs had been slimmed down for a GQ cover. To her undying credit she went public with her anger and contempt.

“I don’t look like that and I don’t want to look like that.”

Was that decisive slap-down responsible, in its own small way, for the fact that young women of today, big and beautiful, routinely and with consummate panache  parade our streets with delectably queen-size thighs bared from stocking top to skirt hem? If so they owe her. Earlier generations of big girls had subjected bodies they’d learned to loathe to all manner of abuse in their quest for the legs of a locust.

I’m sure many still do. Not even a screen goddess can fix everybody’s private hell.

Since then I’ve never stopped enjoying Kate’s performances, even those where she keeps her kit on. And like a decent single malt, she’s aged well. If you didn’t see her Mare of Easttown – more Sarah Lancashire than Marylin Monroe – you really should. That it never ran to a second series I can only chalk up to her being unavailable.

For Titanic she was paired with Leonardo DiCaprio, an Adonis in his early twenties. Speaking of youth I shouldn’t pass over in silence his preference, shared with Prince Andrew, for lamb over mutton. See Ricky Gervais presenting the 2020 Golden Globe Awards – 10 minute highlights here. The gags are as wicked as they are funny – RG really does not play the game! – and the one aimed at Leo’s a gem. Noting a trend to overly long movies, he singles out an egregious example before adding:

“Leonardo DiCaprio went to the premiere. By the time it had finished his date was too old for him.”

Actually I’m impressed by how good naturedly Leo smiles at Ricky’s barb. You’d think he loved it but I guess we have to remember – as with Meryl Streep’s hissy-fit over Donald Trump at the 2016 GGA (also skewered by Ricky, though without naming her) – that when all is said and done we is speaking of actors is we not?

In any case, there’s real life – and there’s the silver screen. Whatever these people – paid vast sums, as Caitlin Johnstone recently noted apropos Sean Penn, for egoically gratifying work – get up to off the set, it’s their power to bring magic into our lives that leaves us wanting more.

On this criterion Titanic 2D delivered big time. It hit all the right buttons, featuring enchanting principals with fine support from Kathy Bates, a Billy Zane oozing upper class entitlement as the boo-hiss baddy, and a Bernard Hill I’ve enjoyed since Boys from the Black Stuff now the hapless skipper of history’s best known instantiation of hubris on the high seas. Throw in astonishing, no expense spared visuals – and a love story which, clichés be damned, would move a heart of flint – and what’s not to like? A big movie in the old fashioned sense, it  brought romance and magic to hearts yearning to be romanced and magicked.

So how does it play in 3D? For the first hour I was underwhelmed. Not by the film itself, which a quarter century on worked as well as ever, but with its 3D-ification. The lass at the counter had had to coax me into parting with an additional two quid for the special specs. (In the past I’ve ended up removing the fuckers, mid movie, as irritating distractions.)

“It’ll be just a blur without them.”

Not true, but she did me a good turn. I first noticed their enhancing capabilities when, with Leo drawing Kate wearing only a diamond pendant, I involuntarily moved to raise myself in my seat. His sketchpad obscuring my view of her other gemsmy impulse to gain a height advantage, the better to peer over an obstacle perceived in three dimensions, paid unconscious tribute to their power.

Didn’t I say the film was visually astonishing? Shortly after the above scene, boat hits berg. In 3D those king’s-ransom-costing scenes of disaster and distress, panic, selfishness and stoic courage, were massively enhanced by the lenses I’d been loth to splash out on. Never more so than when the one lifeboat which does turn back to pluck survivors from the icy waters threads its path, torchlit and Dantesque, through a vast carpet of poignantly charged flotsam, and the pallid faces of the frozen and vertically bobbing drowned. Harrowing doesn’t begin to cover it.

Go see it. And don’t cheap out on the glasses.

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