Right, this next bit is going to make me sound like a sap at first. Don't care.
Watched my new Titanic Special Edition DVD yesterday and today. Well, the movie and deleted scenes, anyway. (It's a three disk set, with three commentary tracks, making-of bits integrated into the viewing of the film, documentaries, and all sorts of stuff. Not going to see it all at once, obviously. Plus, the movie is like three hours, anyway.) And I realize that the movie has been at the receiving end of a considerable backlash since it's release, but--and here's the bit that makes me sound like a sap; don't care--I like it. I like it a lot, which is why I saw it a couple of times in the theater, and why I bought the DVD and watched it all straight through again.
And I'm not going to get into a whole discussion about whether or not it really is a great movie, or just a piece of overblown fluff, because that just doesn't matter to me. There are plenty of acknowledged classics and wonderful films beloved by many that I think are incredibly dull. (Hey! Gone with the Wind and Return of the King! I'm talking to you!) And there are many other films that I love as well. But I'm not going to be embarrassed about putting Titanic on the list, because it's my list, and I'm making it my way.
Part of the appeal, for me, is the time it came out. I was going through a great deal of personal upheaval at the time (quitting work, going back to school, moving to a strange town, falling in love, getting a cat) and so the movie reminds me of this pivotal time of my life, and how it all worked out okay. Which wasn't exactly apparent at the time, because I was right in the middle of it. And that's a reason that nobody else will have for liking Titanic, and that doesn't make it any less relevant.
And part of it is that I think it's a pretty good movie. Okay, maybe I am going to defend it a little here. I read arguments that it's too long and too padded; seeing what was cut out of it really gives lie to that notion. There's a whole extended chase/fight sequence that would have stopped the movie dead if it had been left in. And lots of stuff with the present-day characters in the framing sequence. All gone, all for the better. And there are those who say that it's too obvious and straightforward and facile. Again, seeing what was cut out makes the existing cut seem so subtle and understated, it's a revelation. The DVD includes the originally scripted and shot ending, which is so obvious and heavy-handed, it's almost like it comes from another movie. Almost every scene cut from the first half (pre-iceberg) part of the movie is a scene that explains the themes and emotions of the story and characters, for those members of the audience who just can't be bothered to think. That's the stuff that would have yanked me right out of the movie.
In the end, I like that it's this almost fairy-tale romance happening against this backdrop of epic tragedy. Because this is what I want to see in movies: Grand themes and emotions writ large, shown to me in ways I'd never see them in life. This is just me, of course, but I don't want to see a movie that presents a detailed portrait of the human condition, with all its subtle shadings and colors. That's the world I live in. That's the world where the once-greatest nation in the world places a higher priority on preserving the riches of the wealthy over helping the victims of natural disasters (victims whose lot could have been much better in the first place, had the government pulled its head out of its diamond-encrusted arse and prepared for a very predictable disaster). It's the world where people are dying in the thousands in a war started by a pack of lies, and the uncovering of those lies is being referred to as the "criminalization of politics."
And, on a personal level, it's a world where the stupid insurance company that authorized repairs to my car--which someone else hit while I was virtually stopped--won't authorize a rental car while those repairs are being done. Do I believe that the romance between Jack and Rose is a true reflection of the social mores of the time, and the complex interplay of emotion that genuinely represents the intertwining of two souls? No, of course not. But I get all that from playing "guess what I'm thinking" with the Girl in the Cafe, thank you very much; what would be the point of watching the exact same bloody thing as entertainment? The other day, at breakfast at another regular haunt of mine, the waitress I generally chat with sat down at my table to talk to me, even though she wasn't waiting on me. And I don't know what, if anything, that might mean. I like the relative lack of ambiguity, the straightforward true-love-ness of the romance in Titanic, because it cuts to the heart of things (no pun intended). It sends a different message than just, "Things are always all confusing and screwed up, and there's nothing you can do about it." And it still ends tragically. So there.
So, yes, the romance in Titanic is a fantasy. That is what I want to see at the movies. I don't need to pay to see a reflection of the ambiguities and gray areas of my daily life; I get those for free, thank you very much. When I pay my six to nine dollars to see a movie, I want to see spectacular ships sinking, and explosions, and cartoons, and spaceships and robots and giant apes (only maybe not for three hours). And that's why I like Titanic.