TITANIC (1997) C widescreen 194m dir: James Cameron

w/Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Bill Paxton, Suzy Amis, Victor Garber, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bernard Hill, David Warner, Jonathan Hyde

From the Turner Classic Movies website (www.tcm.com), this article about the film by Rob Nixon: "The story of the world's most famous shipwreck has been filmed more than 10 times, including a 1912 German version slapped together just days after the real tragedy and the British film long accepted as the definitive cinematic take on the incident, A Night to Remember (1958). But none have ever achieved the status of Titanic (1997), James Cameron's version of the incident. It was the most expensive movie made up to that time ($200 million) and remains the #1 box office champ, dropping only a few notches in that category when adjusted for inflation. It is tied with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) and Ben-Hur (1959) for the most Academy Awards won by a single picture (11) and with only one film, All About Eve (1950), for the most nominations (14). It has received dozens of other awards throughout the world, inspired numerous parodies and imitations, and spawned a Grammy-winning hit theme song ('My Heart Will Go On'). It has also spurred renewed interest in the historical facts and a huge increase in the demand for Titanic memorabilia and souvenirs. Although not universally acclaimed by critics, it is perhaps the perfect example of modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking, combining the most successful elements of multiple-genre narrative construction, state-of-the-art technical resources, and effective marketing strategies.

"The film's tremendous success and popularity lie in its ability to integrate dazzling special effects and large-scale historical epic with a human drama that contemporary audiences could connect with on some level. That was Cameron's stated goal on this picture, 'to integrate a very personal, very emotional, and very intimate filmmaking style with spectacle, and to try to make that not be kind of chocolate syrup on a cheeseburger.' Cameron has said the movie was conceived as a love story, and that it was only the need to recreate the RMS Titanic and its sad fate that necessitated major visual effects. Whatever one's view of how effectively he achieved this integration, Titanic certainly drew praise for having instilled a sense of freshness and suspense into a story whose conclusion is not only foregone but globally known and for working against a nearly century-old air of tragedy and doom to open the picture with such optimism and excitement.

"An entire book can be written about the technical aspects of making Titanic (and several have been), so it would be unwise to try to cover more than a few highlights here:

"--- The catastrophic rendezvous of the ship with a North Atlantic iceberg was recreated in real water by ramming a large-scale miniature of it into a miniature of the side of the ship constructed out of relatively easy-to-pierce lead. The underwater dolly carrying the iceberg replica was moved through the tank by a cable connected to a truck in the parking lot outside the studio of the special effects company Light Matters. Because of the speed and force needed to tear into the "ship," the impact was shot at 48 frames per second, allowing it to be projected back at the slower normal speed of the actual incident.

"--- Expert model makers from Vision Crew Unlimited were contracted to create details for the extremely exact 45-foot replica of the ship. The craftsmen made lifeboats, davits (the structures used to lower the lifeboats), cranes, ventilators, and 2,000 portholes with working windows. The 14-person team had to cast many of the pieces entirely out of brass because of scale and stress issues. For example, the davits on the real boat were 20 feet high; the models were 9 feet high and quite thin but still had to be positionable and functional, able to support the weight of a lifeboat with 24 model oars in it (even though, according to the model makers, the boats were covered and the oars not seen).

"--- The brass was also necessary because of temperatures. Cameron wanted to capture the drama in the Titanic's engine room when the crew was forced to put the ship into full reverse to avoid the collision, but there was no time to build a model engine room that would serve the purpose. So they used a World War II era Liberty ship troop transport they found still moored in San Francisco with engines very similar to those on the doomed ship, although only 1/3 the size. To force the scale, many of the catwalks, gauges, dials, even light bulbs were removed and replaced with tiny ones that made the engine room seem much larger. People were then composited into the shot. The only problem was, Liberty ship engine rooms can reach 140 degrees, so instead of the initially planned plastics, the new fittings had to be made of brass to prevent sagging and melting.

"--- Production designer Peter Lamont obtained the actual Titanic blueprints from the original shipbuilders. In the process, he discovered that the manufacturer of the ship's carpeting was still in business, so he had the firm recreate the exact patterns and colors used throughout the ship.

"--- James Cameron himself made the first of a dozen 12,378-foot dives to the sunken ship at the start of production in the fall of 1995 to shoot the fictional salvage operation that comprises the contemporary portion of the story. Overall, Cameron said the production, with its numerous challenges, hardships, and risks, had him feeling like he was on the bridge of the actual ship. 'I could see the iceberg coming far away, but as hard as I turned that wheel there was just too much mass, too much inertia,' he said in an interview put together by the Academy of Achievement in Washington, DC, in 1999. 'You're in this situation where you feel quite doomed, and yet you still have to play by your own ethical standards, you know, no matter where that takes you. And ultimately that was the salvation, because I think if I hadn't done that...they might have pulled the plug....We held on. We missed the iceberg by that much.'

"The story of the RMS Titanic, of course, has not captured the public imagination this long simply because of the mechanical details of a supposedly unsinkable ship destroyed by an iceberg. More than 1,500 of its roughly 2,200 passengers died that April night in 1912; some by drowning, some from the impact of jumping or falling from the sinking ship, but most due to hypothermia in the frigid Atlantic waters as they screamed for help within earshot of the insufficient number of lifeboats carrying the survivors away. Yet it's the human story that lingers, and it was Cameron's intention to create such a narrative by focusing on the relationship of two people who meet on board, a freewheeling working class lad named Jack Dawson and young Rose DeWitt Bukater, unhappily engaged to a wealthy cad. Their love story forms the core of Titanic's drama and provides the contemporary framing device in which the aged Rose returns to the scene of the disaster.

"The studio initially pushed for Matthew McConaughey to play Jack, but Cameron insisted on Leonardo DiCaprio. Thanks to his work in this, DiCaprio was able to move out of adolescent roles into adult leads, and he and co-star Kate Winslet were catapulted into international stardom.

"Titanic also turned the spotlight on another performer, giving her first feature film appearance in eleven years and reminding the world that she was once a promising young starlet in the 1930s. As the older Rose, Gloria Stuart had her most noteworthy role since the days when she played in such movies as James Whale's The Old Dark House (1932) and The Invisible Man (1933), Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), and the Shirley Temple hits Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938). Stuart retired from films in 1946 to concentrate on a successful visual art career. She returned to acting in the mid-1970s when she was in her 60s, playing a number of bits and small supporting parts on television and the big screen until Cameron cast her in a role based in part on the well-known sculptor Beatrice Wood. Stuart's work earned her an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress (at 86, the oldest nominee in Academy history), although she commented in her autobiography that she might have won had not so much of her performance been cut from the final release. Following this project, she appeared as a different character in The Titanic Chronicles (1999), a recreation of the 1912 Senate hearings about the oceanic disaster. All the major actors in that production previously appeared in other movies about the Titanic.

"The bodies of many of the accident's victims were recovered by ships out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and brought back there for burial. The film's success has brought floods of visitors to the gravesites. One that has caused quite a stir is marked with the name of engine room crew member J. Dawson. Cemetery workers say teenage girls are convinced the headstone marks the grave of Jack Dawson, the fictional character played by DiCaprio."

TITANIC won eleven Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Dramatic Score (James Horner), Music, Song ("My Heart Will Go On," James Horner, Will Jennings), Film Editing (Conrad Buff, James Cameron, Richard A. Harris), Cinematography (Russell Carpenter), Art Direction (Peter Lamont, Michael Ford), Costume Design (Deborah L. Scott), Visual Effects (Robert Lagato, Mark A. Lassoff, Thomas L. Fisher, Michael Canfer), Sound (Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Gary Summers, Mark Ulano) and Sound Effects Editing (Tom Bellfort, Christopher Boyes). It was also nominated for Best Actress (Winslet), Supporting Actress (Stuart) and Makeup (Tina Earnshaw, Greg Cannom, Simon Thompson).