Given it’s the 100th year anniversary of the maiden voyage, iceberg strike and sinking of the Titanic (it was a very busy week for the White Star Line), we decided to team up again for another cinematic pilgrimage – this time for James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic.
I hadn’t sat through the entire film since seeing in at the cinema in late ’97; Stu had never watched it in its entirety, although like most people he absorbed most of it through osmosis. It’s now got a slightly naff reputation about it; Stu declared the viewing “an exercise in masochism.” But then masochism shared is masochism halved - which may not be exactly what a masochist wants, but that’s by the by.
Now while only Kate Winslet gets her boobs out, we thought there would be plenty of chances for gags about “all hands on deck”, and “going down with the ship”. But as it turns out the jokes and satirical commentary gave way to a surprising dose of Stockholm’s Syndrome.
The movie is over three hours long, and while I have been judicious with editing our commentary, the transcription that follows is quite lengthy. You have been warned!
The credits play, and the movie opens with a deep water submersible visiting the actual Titanic wreck.
DS: That’s how this all started – James Cameron was mad keen on deepwater diving, and wanted to film the wreck.
GC: So are you saying it was a tax write-off?
DS: Pretty much, yeah.
Bill Paxton films himself discussing the majesty of the ship.
DS: Oh I forgot Bill Paxton was in this.
GC: He’s doing selfies, before selfies were invented.
DS: I was actually a geek for this stuff when I was at school.
GC: Of course you couldn’t make Titanic today, because the central premise is that the Rose character is still alive.
DS: Yeah, the timeline wouldn’t work.
Grainy video footage of the interior of the hull, and shots of the robot camera, nicknamed Scooby-Doo.
DS: He was my favourite unsung character. You never saw any toys of him.
GC: He’s like the original Wall-E.
Scooby-Doo finds a safe.
DS: I’d completely forgot about this – they were treasure hunters!
GC: They’re looking for the diamond, the Heart of the Ocean.
Bill Paxton and his treasure hunters get prematurely excited, but when they crack open the safe, no diamond.
GC: WHAT IS THIS BULLSHIT IT’S JUST SOME PAPER WHAT THE F***WHERE’S OUR DIAMOND IT’S JUST ALL RUBBISH
DS: Game over man, game over.
They uncover the nude drawing of a young Rose.
DS: This was a pencil sketch, but it survived underwater?
GC: Well, it was in a leather bound journal.
Bill Paxton takes a phone call from old Rose, who asks if he’s found the diamond. She then confesses the woman in the picture is her.
DS: With the surging of the music just then, it reminded me of Jurassic Park, and just I thought how much better this movie would be if it just had dinosaurs in it.
GC: I just had images of raptors sliding down the decks…
Old Rose arrives on the recovery boat. She looks at her picture, then at other relics from the seabed, including her mirror, and notes how her face has changed.
DS: It is interesting to view this movie as the dementia-addled delusions of an old person.
GC: Maybe they chose that as the humanising element, the life lived… because I don’t want to spoil things for you Stu, but I don’t think Leonardo DiCaprio is going to make it.
Bill Paxtons’ tech crew mate shows Rose the simulation of the sinking.
DS: This guy is basically me as a kid.
GC: There’s a certain physical similarity too, with the beard.
DS: I was a strange, lonely child.
GC: That’s all right, I was obsessed with serial killers.
Beardy guy finishes his speech by saying “Pretty cool, huh?” to a woman who survived the actual sinking.
GC: Like who would actually say that to someone who was on the Titanic? Even if you thought it privately, you wouldn’t say it…
DS: You’d have to be sperging pretty hard…
DS: Yeah, sperging, as in Aspergers?
GC: Ohhh. That’s a thing now?
We follow Rose’s memories back to April 1912, when she arrived portside at Southampton to board Titanic. Young Rose exits a Rolls Royce and famously tilts her be-hatted head up to look at the vessel.
GC: Whenever I see this moment, I always think of the Futurama Titanic parody.
BILLY ZANE appears, as Cal Hockley, Rose’s fiancé.
BOTH: BILLY ZANE!!!
GC: What is he up to these days?
DS: I was just going to say, there is an actor who is not getting enough work.
BILLY ZANE bribes a White Star line steward to ensure his luggage is checked on quickly.
GC: You can already tell that he’s evil. You just know.
DS: He’s very rich, you see.
GC: Why are those people having their heads examined?
DS: They’re having lice checks, because they’re filthy commoners.
We glimpse first class dogs boarding with their owners.
GC: But dogs, just let them onboard.
Leonardo DiCaprio appears for the first time as Jack, playing poker to win tickets onboard the ship.
GC: Tony Martin always used to say girls would regret fawning over Leo, because he was a dead ringer for a young Bert Newton.
DS: Leo definitely has gone a bit moon-faced.
Jack wins the tickets and celebrates with his Italian friend Fabrizio.
DS: This whole scene seems fairly implausible. Like, if you’re going to get a ship to America, it doesn’t seem like it would be the Titanic.
GC: WE’RE-A GOING-TO AMEEERRRICA!
DS: What are an Italian stereotype and an American doing in Southampton anyway?
GC: Well he travels, Jack, he’s very worldly.
DS: Fabrizio’s turned up the ethnicity to eleven.
The engines start, and the Titanic putt-putts out to sea.
DS: Oh, there go the propellors.
GC: Wow, look at that CGI. That’s Xena-level CGI.
Cut to Rose’s stateroom, where’s she’s busy hanging artworks by someone called “Picasso” that everyone else hates.
GC: See, she’s the intellectual who knows they’re worthy.
Jack and Fabrizio head to the prow.
DS: Here’s THAT scene. Are you even allowed up there as a passenger?
GC: Eh, back in the day.
DS: I suppose health and safety standards weren’t as strict back then.
GC: Maybe if they had been Stu, this whole thing would never have happened.
Captain Theodan from Lord of the Rings is at the bridge. He’s playing Captain Smith.
GC: I love that’s the extent of Captain Theodan’s acting - it’s just a lot of leaning on railings. Cup of tea, put my hands on the railing, that’s all the acting I need to do.
DS: That’s the extent of the captaining he did too.
Fabrizio gets excited. I CAN-A SEE THE-A STATUE OF-A LIBERTY ALL-A-READY!
DS: Oh that Italian accent is amazing.
GC: I wonder if he’s actually Italian, and we’re just mocking his real accent?
DS: I don’t know, there are stereotypes and then there are stereotypes.
Jack famously declares himself the “king of the world!”, and stands triumphantly behind Fabrizio.
GC: That looks a bit homoerotic now actually.
DS: They’re sort of leaning up against each other. I always thought he said this line while Rose was there.
GC: He repeats it with Rose and the flying bit later on.
DS: Yeah, and it’s kind of funny now realising there’s a swarthy Italian man who’s there instead.
It’s lunchtime, and Kate Winslet is smoking.
DS: A bit Hunter Thompson like, with a holder, which is what I like.
It becomes a game of “Who’s That Actor?”
GC: That’s the guy from Alias as the ship’s architect.
DS: That’s Kathy Bates, right?
DS: And that guy, he was in Jumanji.
Rose disses White Star line manager Bruce Ismay’s love of size by quoting a famous psychoanalyst.
GC: See, she’s clever, well-read, knows Freud.
DS: And she’s sassy.
BILLY ZANE says he’ll have to control what Rose reads more.
DS: So they never even go out of their way to make BILLY ZANE even a little bit charming?
GC: No, I think they thought, you’ve got one dimension, and that’s all you need.
Old Rose narrates about how imprisoned she felt which prompts her to attempt suicide by jumping off the back of the ship.
DS: This is fairly abrupt.
GC: They don’t have any time, they need to spend two hours on the sinking.
DS: I just feel like this wasn’t earned, we haven’t seen her miserable enough.
GC: Maybe there were some cut scenes?
DS: Maybe BILLY ZANE being all evil and oppressive.
Jack intervenes to talk Rose down. Or rather, up. Off, at the very least.
DS: Everyone seems to be of the time, but he’s not, he’s the modern kid.
GC: He’s talking like a teenager in the 1990s.
DS: He’s not even attempting speech patterns, it’s like he’s just walked in off a sitcom.
GC: I never understand the crazed fandom of Leo. I mean, I get that he’s kind of cute and boyish.
DS: I can understand in an objective way.
Hubbub erupts as Jack’s rescue of a dishevelled Rose looks a bit suspicious to security guards. Cut to an interrogation scene of sorts, where Rose jumps in to say it was an accident, and an old general blusters “Women and machinery do not mix!”
GC: Bwa-ha-ha-ha I’ve got a moustache.
DS: They managed to get him into handcuffs and her into a blanket before anyone’s asked any pertinent questions about what happened.
BILLY ZANE sarcastically invites Jack to dinner as a thank you.
GC: BILLY ZANE is evil.
BILLY ZANE gives Rose the Coeur de la Mer , which of course she translates as the Heart of the Ocean. She clasps her neck in a metaphorical gesture.
BOTH: IT’S A CHAIN!
Very awkward scene of Rose and Jack walking on the deck. She complains about her life, he asks if she loves BILLY ZANE, and then she gets somewhat inappropriately prissy about it all.
GC: This is so badly written.
DS: It’s like three different scenes.
GC: Just completely overblown. They didn’t need to argue here.
DS: They were just having a fight, now she’s looking at his art.
Rose says Jack must have had a love affair with one of the girls in his drawings. He says no, just with her hands.
DS: Glad we’ve got that sorted out.
Inside, Ismay demands Captain Theodan increase the ship’s speed.
GC: After this conversation, I’m going to the nearest railroad track to tie a young woman to it.
DS: He is from a silent movie..
Jack promises to teach Rose how to ride a horse like a man, which prompts a spitting lesson.
DS: I do not remember this scene. Understandably it doesn’t make it into a lot of highlight reels.
GC: At the Oscars.
DS: Yeah, here’s the Titanic spitting scene.
Cut to dinner, where Jack’s managed to procure a suit, and is barely recognisable to anyone but Rose, in her finery.
DS: You can tell why a lot of girls fell for this film. Romance, girls in pretty dresses.
GC: Oh yes.
Rose introduces Jack to the cream of society, including millionaire John Jacob Astor.
DS: Oh, he’s that guy.
GC: Isn’t he from a soap opera?
DS: Yeah, he’s from Days of Our Lives.
GC: No, it’s Young and the Restless.
After an uptight dinner where BILLY ZANE does his best to undermine Jack, but he inspires a toast nonetheless, he invites Rose to “the real party” in steerage.
GC: Upstairs it’s all proper string quartets and whatnot, and down below it’s all bodhrans and fiddles and liveliness.
DS: Now play Whisky in the Jar.
Rose shows off her party trick of going en pointe barefoot.
GC: Pfffft. Actually impossible to do. Well, I tried a lot anyway.
Rose is smoking again.
GC: She’s having a wee fag. AND A CIGARETTE!
DS: Leonardo DiCaprio’s lawyers will be in contact with you shortly.
The next morning, BILLY ZANE chucks a fit and throws Rose’s breakfast table at her.
DS: BILLY ZANE.
GC: Clean-up on aisle three.
Rose’s mother forbids her from seeing Jack again.
DS: Oh that always works.
GC: This is a nice little bit of acting though. These sorts of intimate, particularly feminine closet scenes, is what Kate Winslet does best. The semi-comedy they were trying to do earlier just didn’t come off.
The upper-crusts sing the hymn that ends “for those in peril on the sea”.
Rose and Co. head to the bridge just in time to see Captain Theodan get an iceberg warning. He declared it normal, and in fact he’s speeding up.
GC: Like Keanu Reeves in Speed.
Rose asks the guy from Alias about lifeboats, and she’s done the sums in her head and knows there’s not enough lifeboats.
GC: This scene always drove me batshit crazy. Like how would she know that? Why would she be wandering around the ship checking out lifeboat numbers?
BILLY ZANE says even the ones they have are unnecessary on an unsinkable ship. Cause he’s an IDIOT.
Jack grabs Rose for a private chat, and declares her a “spoiled little brat”.
DS: Not the best pick-up line.
GC: But she’s not a brat!
DS: He’s being just as forceful as BILLY ZANE is. And we’re supposed to root for him …because he’s poor?
GC: Her future is tied to one of these two men. She must choose one or the other, there is no third option.
Rose joins Jack on the prow.
GC: God this is so clichéd.
DS: Look at that background, it’s like something out of an animated film.
The melody of “My Heart Will Go On” starts to pick up.
DS: Christ, you could not get away from this song.
GC: Yeah, and they don’t really do theme songs from movies anymore…
DS: Where that song would be a chart hit.
Rose opens her eyes and says “I’m flying!”
GC: It’s so naff, but you can imagine how 15-year-old girls would react to this.
DS: I just got a sense of déjà vu to the first Superman movie where they’re flying around together.
GC: Well, I’m not sure if I’ve seen that movie completely, but I’ve seen the Hot Shots! parody of it.
Moments later, they’re back in her suite where she’s going to pose nude with the diamond. Rose drops her robe, then it jump cuts to Jack’s face.
DS: They’ve cut that right to the frame.
GC: It’s so hard to draw when you’ve got a massive erection.
DS: You need a table to rest your notebook on, you can’t just put it in your lap.
GC: It’d be funny if they just cut back to his drawing, and it was just a crude outline of some boobs. And he says “I’ve done this, can we just have sex now?”
DS: Perhaps stick figures.
Kate Winslet looks winsome nude.
DS: It’s funny that no one ever remembers that Kate Winslet gets her tits out in this movie.
GC: Oh, I think you’ll find some people do.
|A Google search turned up a censored version. Thank heavens for that |
black strip, or who knows what horrors we'd all be exposed to.
BILLY ZANE and his shifty assistant/spy start looking for Rose.
GC: Why didn’t they look in her room?
DS: You’d think that’d be first on their list.
GC: And the guy just opens the door and says “Excuse me, are you…. WOAH!”
GC: “Do you want to get a robe or something?”
Meanwhile on the bridge, all looks good. The water is like a “millpond”.
DS: It’s quiet. A little too quiet.
Jack and Rose go running through the ship to avoid Mr Shifty, giving him the finger as they descend in a lift. They eventually find the cargo hold and nude up in a Rolls Royce or Model T-Ford or whatever.
GC: Wasn’t that a joke at the time, that they’re on the most epic romantic cruise liner of all time, but they’re teenagers so they still find a car to have sex in?
BILLY ZANE rifles through the safe and finds Jack’s porno drawing of his fiancé. Meanwhile Jack and Rose run away from stewards again, and onto the ship’s deck. Two crewmen up in the Crow’s Nest warm the chill by observing Jack and Rose’s passion.
DS: So essentially Cameron is blaming Jack and Rose, for distracting the lookouts from seeing the iceberg?
Oh yeah, the iceberg. It hoves into view, and the crewman start ringing bells. “Iceberg! Right ahead!” We’re silent while the iceberg tears into the side of the ship.
GC: Now I feel bad. It’s sad.
DS: I’ve got to admit, that was pretty effective.
GC: Yeah, you think, just turn it…
DS: Just a little bit more… aww, they hit it.
A steward tells a concerned passenger that it’s nothing to be worried about; meanwhile the guy from Alias and other officials are freaking out. Jack and Rose go to warn her mother and BILLY ZANE, only to have Mr Shifty frame Jack up as a diamond thief, and have him sent to the brig. Then BILLY ZANE slaps Rose.
GC: BILLY ZANE!
The evacuation is underway. Steerage passengers start getting clogged up. A nice Irish lady tells her kids they’re putting first class passengers on boats first.
GC: Because that's right and proper and all.
Rose joins her mother and other nice ladies in a queue for a boat. She tells off her mother for hoping the boats would be seated according to class, then eventually calls BILLY ZANE an unimaginable bastard and spits in his eye.
GC: She hocked a loogie, right at Cal Hockley.
Rose goes to rescue Jack, but water starts seeping up hallways.
DS: That would be vaguely unsettling.
GC: It’s kind of like The Shining.
Rose bumps into the guy from Alias, who tells her where to find Jack.
GC: It’s quite fortunate she ran into him. What with this massive ship with the emergency going on and all.
Rose finds Jack, but without a key, he sends her off to find help to free him from his handcuffs.
GC: You can’t find help! You’re underwater!
Meanwhile stewards tell steerage passengers to stay behind the gates.
DS: Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
GC: I guess this is panic stations really.
BILLY ZANE approaches First Officer Murdoch about getting past the whole “women and children first” deal, and getting himself on a lifeboat.
GC: I’m BILLY ZANE. I must go on.
DS: There must always be BILLY ZANE.
Jack and Rose come across BILLY ZANE, and both men convince Rose to get in a lifeboat.
GC: Part of me wishes to see the movie where Rose thought, “This is sensible, I’ll get in the lifeboat, Jack’s doing this for me, even the heartless BILLY ZANE is doing this for me.”
BILLY ZANE informs Jack he has a way off – but not for Jack.
GC: I’m taking this moment of heartbreaking international tragedy to smear your face in faeces.
DS: I’m absolutely gloating.
As she’s being lowered, Rose realises she can’t leave Jack.
DS: Never let go!
GC: Never let go!
DS: Until she does at the end.
GC: Everyone always goes on about that! But come on, the guy was dead. He’s dead.
BILLY ZANE chases them, then shoots at them.
DS: What we see here is James Cameron trying to add more drama to the sinking of the largest cruise ship the world has ever known.
GC: It just wasn’t dramatic enough.
DS: What we needed was a man with a gun.
GC: You always need a man with a gun.
BILLY ZANE realises he’s out of bullets.
DS:: Damn you, pistol, I command you to work.
Jack and Rose get trapped in water.
DS: They look absolutely petrified there, and I don’t blame them, that would be terrifying, even just as actors.
A lifeboat falls on a few people as they try to manoeuvre it to the correct position for launch. BILLY ZANE tries to cash in on his deal with Murdoch, who promptly throws the cash in his face. The crowd surges and a nice Irish fellow is shot, along with someone else from third-class. Fabrizio says BASTARDO!
GC: I think this caused some controversy.
Shocked, Murdoch shoots himself and crumples into the water. The crowd surges again.
GC: No time for personal tragedies; we’ve got a large tragedy to deal with.
BILLY ZANE grabs a crying kid and uses it to get onto a lifeboat.
DS: Come child, you must be my pawn.
Elsewhere on the deck, the band starts playing “Nearer My God to Thee”.
GC: It’s a sad song to play really. “We’re all f***ed, we’re so f***ed, we might as well…
BOTH: …play ourselves off.”
We see more people getting ready to die.
GC: Aww, look at the old people cuddling in bed together. How terrifying would that be?
DS: There go the Picassos.
Mr Guggenheim, dressed to the nines to meet his fate, looks at the water coming up to claim him.
DS: I’ve made a terrible mistake.
We start seeing desperate passengers jump/fall off the back of the ship.
GC: It’s actually quite chilling seeing people jumping off, because do you remember that thing about September 11, when people jumped out of the Twin Towers to escape? And people said they wouldn’t do that, they wouldn’t kill themselves, but they’re in a burning building…
DS: So yes, they probably could do that.
The middle of the vessel starts to crack. A funnel collapses, taking out Jack’s best friend.
Everyone else is rushing to the stern. Rose tells Jack this is where they first met.
GC: You know, two days ago? It’s been such a wild ride.
DS: So much has happened since then. Possibly too much.
DS: Here comes guy who falls through the propellor…
The stern continues to rise, the lights go off.
GC: That sucks. I think the light is the last thing left to keep any kind of sanity.
Down goes another funnel. And another.
GC: It’s quite sickening really.
GC: That’s the thing, I haven’t watched this for so long, and now I just think it’s really sickening. I can’t remember what I thought of all the horror of it at the time. It seems all too easy to slag it off.
DS: It’s actually hideous in a way, because he’s made this love story in the middle of this actual disaster. It’s like someone in 50 years’ time making a love story set on the Twin Towers on September 11.
GC: I wonder if that’ll happen?
Jack and Rose look down at impending doom.
DS: That would be a pretty f***ed up sight, looking down at the sinking ship.
GC: How has old Rose not got post-traumatic stress disorder?
Jack instructs Rose on how to survive the sinking, taking a deep breath then kicking upwards, and holding onto his hand.
GC: Never let go, never let go. She let go. OK, she let go there.
Cut to a mass of screaming people in the ocean.
GC: Basically everyone’s living on adrenalin at this point.
Some dude tries to use Rose as a buoy.
DS: Turns out human beings can be f***s.
Jack tells Rose he needs her to swim.
GC: She probably can’t swim.
DS: But she’s so sassy.
Jack and Rose have a touching final scene, in which he tells her she will die an old lady, warm in her bed. She replies that she can’t feel her body.
GC: I’ll feel it for you.
DS: You leave that to me.
Cut to Horatio Hornblower/Mr Fantastic rowing a lifeboat through now-corpses to find any signs of life.
GC: It’s like the Harry Potter and Dumbledore boating through the Inferi in Voldemort’s cave.
Kate Winslet looks at the stars, as she hears the rescue crew yelling in the distance.
GC: Aww, he’s dead. I’m sad. I’m finding myself more reluctant to…
DS: It is kind of a shame that he makes it ALL the way, he’s imprisoned and everything, and it’s the cold that gets him.
GC: Never let go Rose. They’re going away Rose.
DS: Say something Rose. Pipe up, Rose, for God’s sake.
Rose lets go of Jack, and he sinks. She swims over to a dead crewman, and uses his whistle to call back the rescue boat.
DS: They always say on planes that the light and the whistle are there to attract attention. And it works!
Young Rose takes Jack’s surname of Dawson on arrival in New York, to start a new life. Old Rose talks about a woman’s heart being a deep ocean of secrets, and the crew tell her there’s no record of Jack at all.
DS: Almost like it was a made up story.
Old Rose goes to the edge of the boat, to reveal the Heart of the Ocean diamond in her palm.
DS: She had it the whole time.
She tosses it off the edge.
DS: Oh well, whatever.
GC: Now I remember when I first saw this, I’m sure I thought that was a romantic gesture, oh, it belongs to the ocean, but now ….f*** that shit.
DS: It’s actually quite a valuable diamond.
GC: It should be in a museum or something.
DS: It’s quite irresponsible.
Cut to Old Rose in her cabin, surrounded by pictures of her long life.
DS: So hang on, did Bill Paxton give up on the diamond because she told her story?
GC: They never really explain that.
Cut back to the Titanic’s staircase, with the ship’s crew all applauding as Rose walks in to meet Jack.
DS: What we have here is a bit of symbolism.
GC: That’s obviously a dream, but why?
DS: I think she’s dead.
GC: But in the song it says “every night in my dreams”.
DS: Ooh, ambigious.
GC: I thought it was just her dreaming
DS: But I took that to mean that she died, and she’s back with Jack.
GC: But she married someone else, wouldn’t she go back to him, because they spent half their lives together?
DS: You’d think so, but this guy was obviously the love of her life, for two days on the Titanic.
So final thoughts?
We seemed to agree that Titanic is both a seminal film, and nothing special. We definitely agreed that Celine Dion’s voice is grating. But we couldn’t rag on it as much as we expected to, because the actual tragedy it portrays was real, and the film does manage to capture the starkness of that horror – even if it falls short in terms of well-rounded characters and believable dialogue.