A few weeks ago, I saw Titanic 3D with my friend Farrah and her friends. It was a film that had meant a great deal to me when it first came out; I'd been a huge fan of James Cameron's work, and I'd closely followed the progress of Titanic when I'd first heard it announced.
Back in 1997, I saw Titanic on opening night with a girl who was very nearly interested in me. The trailer had left me in a frenzy of anticipation, even more so than for the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, opening that same day. I had read every article, commentary and review I could get my hands on.
I loved it. Truly, madly, deeply loved that movie. Yes, it was corny. Yes, Leo-mania was annoying. Yes, they played that damn song way too many times on the radio. There were flaws, some of them glaring. And if the love story had happened on board a less-famous ship (one, say, that hadn't sunk), it would have been a fairly standard rom-com.
Yeah, yeah, so what? To me, Titanic was a great movie. I stood up and cheered when James Cameron won the Oscar for best director and best picture (in your face, LA Confidential!). I bought the soundtrack. Both of them. And then I went back and saw it again. Seven more times.
At each screening, I felt something that I can't quite quantify, something with tremendous meaning for me. I read a lot into that movie, and got so much out.
I saw that life is full of unexpected events, and our time alive is not fixed. Each day, therefore, each hour, each minute is important. Every time I've walked out of the cinema after seeing Titanic, I've felt better about my life, and had a strong desire to live it well.
After my eighth time seeing it on the big screen, however, I'd more or less had enough. Several months later, I got the VHS copy for Christmas (in widescreen, of course), and watched it with my brother and sister. It was... different. Less affecting, somehow. And it didn't help that my siblings absolutely reveled in pointing out the film's flaws.
I didn't pick up the DVDs, not even the 10th Anniversary Special Edition. Part of the reason was that the film was split onto two disks (why, James, why?). But mostly, seeing it on the small screen just couldn't compare to the experience of the cinema. The magic wasn't there. My heart had gone on.
When I heard that Titanic was coming back to cinemas in 3D, I thought, "That's nice." I didn't go on opening day. Or even that week. When my friend Farrah insisted on seeing it as part of her birthday party, I wished she could have picked The Hunger Games instead. When the lights went down, I put on my polarized glasses and prepared to lose three hours of my life.
The 3D did absolutely nothing for me, unfortunately; a few scenes had a bit more depth, especially those involving height, but that's it.
But I didn't care about that. Five minutes in the magic was back, and I felt like I was visiting old friends. I let it all come back - everything I'd felt the previous eight times. And, because I was so familiar with the story, I had the opportunity to take in more of the smaller details. Like the look on old Rose's face when Lovett (Bill Paxton) tells her the diamond must have gone down with the ship. Or James Cameron's fingers, drawing the portrait of Rose. Or the scene where Rose points out people to Jack, and says "his little wifey's half his age and in a delicate condition. See how she's trying to hide it? Quite the scandal." This time I realized the delicate half-aged wifey was married to John Jacob Astor, played by that guy who was Victor on that soap.
I cried, more than once. After the 3D screening, my friend asked me if I was having an allergy attack! Nope. I'm a sensitive guy, and those tears represented genuine emotion. I didn't cry because Jack died. I cried because of all the things Rose had done with her life, without him. It's both beautiful and tragic, just like the movie. And the ship itself.
I'm so grateful my friend Farrah insisted on Titanic that day. Nine times is a lot, but I could still see it on the big screen again. The film is timeless, as relevant now as it was when it was first released. And, for me, it is still just as powerful.
Well done, James Cameron. Thank you.