24 April 2011

If You Watch Something With Your Mother, Does It Turn Into A "Chick Flick"

All right.  I'll admit it.  I actually watched Titanic tonight--well, the last 2-1/2 hours of the movie, anyway.

I first saw it not long after it came out.  Someone had asked me to get a copy, and I watched it before sending it off.  If I recall, that copy was a VHS and I got it on Canal Street. 

But tonight I watched it on a wide screen TV, on one of the cable channels.  And I watched it with Mom, who's seen it a few more times than I have.

When I first saw it, I made a point of sneering at it, at least when it was over.  Everyone, it seemed, gushed over it, and I, being the macho snob (Is that a contradiction?) I was, or was portraying myself to be, wanted no part of it.  But, deep down, I was enjoying the spectacle of it more than I admitted.

So, you ask, did I see the movie differently tonight?  I did, but first I'll mention something in my view of it that hasn't changed:  I was not impressed with the acting.  To be fair, Leonardo di Caprio was a baby, or so it seemed.  And his innocent cuteness is what, for many viewers, evoked the sadness they felt when his character sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic.  And Kate Winslet wasn't much older, though she looked it.   I think that was used to make the audience feel sympathy for her character:  a very young aristocratic woman who was following the imperatives of her milieu.  However, I felt that she was more of an objet d'art, or a model that might appear in one. 

They're like all those famous actors who always remind you that they're the Famous Actor playing the Important Character.  To me, most A-list Hollywood actors fall into this category.  If I'm not mistaken, their performances are examples of what Uta Hagen called "indicative" acting:  they indicate what you're supposed to see or feel, rather than embodying--or, even better yet, revealing--the essences of those characters.  (I still think one of the best examples I ever saw of the latter was Sean Penn's performance in Dead Man Walking.)

OK, I'll stop being a snotty critic and cut to the chase:  I took some not-so-guilty pleasure in watching the movie tonight.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as Leonardo di Caprio's character could no longer maintain his grip on life that was even more ironclad than the ship's hull, and disappeared into the icy darkness of the water.  And the trickle turned into a stream when I saw the old woman Kate Winslet's character becomes, and when one of the people who interview her says that there was no record of the young man who sank into the cold and darkness.

I know that the movie impressed lots of people with its special effects, as James Cameron movies tend to do.  And I know there was lots of emotion that is to the human heart as the stuff played by music boxes is to music.  But somehow it felt good to experience it as I did tonight.  Now I wonder:  Was it because of the hormones, the surgery, or simply being with Mom at what is now seeming more like a late stage in her life (as much as I hope and wish it isn't so!).

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