Tag Archives: Titanic

Kate Winslet 3: patterns in her lovers

Further (and probably final – for now) musings on the 20 year career of Ms Winslet…

 – the short term intensive relationship

Titanic, Labor Day, The Reader, perhaps Finding Neverland; the first two are a matter of days in isolation – one on a voyage, the other, a weekend; the next, a summer

– Her loves set her free

They’re often childlike men and not macho – Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Titanic who spits and runs and has a boyish aspect, though an inner maturity and sortedness; James M Barrie (Johnny Depp) in Finding Neverland who dresses as a Red Indian and wears spoons on his nose at dinner – truly his Peter Pan; Bilal in Hideous Kinky does handstands and magic tricks and has little sense of real responsibility or adult relating; Miles in The Holiday; Brad in Little Children wants to skateboard and play ball, and isn’t comfortable in his relationships or responsibilties. In The Reader, her lover’s a teenager half her age. In Iris, John Bayley’s perhaps a little bumbling and eccentric and less experienced in relationships; Iris looks after him in a childlike way until her illness; in Enigma, Tom’s a genius in meltdown. Monty in Mildred Pierce is less boyish physically, but he’s a playboy in both senses; he leads her out sexually, but he and worldly wise Wally contribute to Mildred’s downward arc. I am not sure Monty can be said to contribute to Mildred’s rise in confidence or business success – rather, he reaps its rewards.

Note how often chasing, fights, games come into the halcyon days with her loves – Jude, Iris, Eternal…, Titanic.

Jack, Bilal and James bring her character out; Kate’s character brings out John and Michael; in Eternal…, Clem embodies what’s in Joel’s head.

The only macho man so far in Kate’s career is in Labor Day, where Frank’s the controlling one, although he does a traditional women’s thing – he bakes and feeds the family, but then ties up Adele and plays baseball, the right of passage to manhood also in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, and in Little Children. I would say that another Frank in Revolutionary Road is controlling – but then, his behaviour leads to demise. Note that Leo’s role here is a reverse of his Titanic one.

Ruth disarms PJ of his machismo in Holy Smoke.

Men who give her power and encouragement lead her forward – Jack lets Rose come onto him and take the lead, and he contrasts with her controlling Mum and fiancé by giving Rose the tools for a life of freedom and fulfilment away from stricture.

By working together as equals, and Hester and Tom solve the Enigma.

Kate’s played a woman interested in other women (even subtly, tangentially) 4 times:

Heavenly Creatures is all about a female friendship that’s arguably love (though it’s too complicated to simply call lesbian); in Holy Smoke she dances with another women and kisses her sensuously; Iris is bisexual, and so’s Hester in Enigma, whose drive towards solving a mystery with Tom is because both have feelings for Claire (in the book it’s more obvious). And then, there’s Veda in Mildred Pierce, a hard to place mother daughter relationship where Mildred has physical thrills around her daughter and kisses her on the lips, and fights like a spurned lover. In the novel of Little Children, Sarah had a relationship with a woman before she met her husband.

Her loves are her undoing

Like Shakespeare plays, Kate’s onscreen loves come mostly in two categories, often not overlapping:

Those drive her mad or to near death; and those who give her new life (tradegy/comedy)

The former are in Heavenly Creatures, Hamlet, Jude, Quills, Revolutionary Road, Mildred Pierce

Marianne’s first love in Sense and Sensibility is her undoing (the charismatic, handsome, playful libertine Willoughby), but the second, older love (Colonel Brandon) is reliable and moral.

– Escape through imagination, travel, learning

This is recurrent and the most empowering: even if it goes wrong, it’s due to forces or society.

In Heavenly Creatures, Pauline and Juliette create worlds, but are severed through paranoid families and schools and a legal system

Jude‘s advanced through learning and geographically moving, but classism and judgement about marriage creates poverty leading to tragedy and parting

Travel and the search for the spiritual (which involves some imagination and reading) empower Julia of Hideous Kinky and Ruth of Holy Smoke.

The desire to travel – and not getting it – thwarts April in Revolutionary Road; and its lack is behind the problems of Maddie in Quills and Adele in Labor Day; but it opens up possibilities for Rose in Titanic, Iris in The Holiday

Reading is the solace of Maddie in Quills, whose goodness in life comes from vicariously not being good on the page, and of Hannah in The Reader. Iris Murdoch’s whole existence is around words and worlds – academically and in fiction.

Isolation in body and spirit causes demise; keeping on metaphorical corsets means loss of mind and self, and ultimately, life.

It’s meant to be a warning to do differently, I think, rather than suggesting that bohemianism is destructive, so stay conventional: I think those stories say the reverse.

Breaking out of that gives the autonomous women Kate regularly chooses a better life, a life to the full, and is one of the reasons I enjoy watching her and following her career.

Next season will be Juliette Binoche to go with her new film, A Thousand Times Good Night

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Titanic Centenary

My interest in the ship began in the mid 1990s and has come to the forecastle this week. I’ve watched several films about it and done other research, including the mixed offering starring Catherine Zeta Jones, currently in discount shops. I am also delving into Violet Jessup’s memoirs, needlessly interfered with and Americanised, and am searching out Morgan Robertson’s prophetic Wreck of the Titan/Futility novel. Having seen it in 3D this week, I focus on my revisit to the Cameron movie.

I’ve enjoyed a love hate relationship with the Cameron film over the past 10 years. When I first saw it in February 1998 shortly after the British release, I was so angered that I went home and wrote three sides of paper on why I disliked it. It was that the Hollywood success formula seemed to have been applied too literally to an inappropriate subject, and I still see how it would have grated so much on that first viewing. One of its better points is having a single central love story, unlike the ensemble dramas of SOS Titanic and the new TV drama. I  find old Rose more interesting than the young, though the ‘Woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets’ comment sounds like a desperate pulling line than really flattering or understanding women.

I felt the framing device of the modern treasure hunt with Brock to be irrelevant and made the very human drama of the world’s greatest ship to be one about money. Yet I had partly missed the point, because the story is how a man obsessed with a materialistic object and the excitement of its recovery learns to see the Titanic disaster as a moving story of human loss and bravery. Perhaps my struggle with that was because I could not imagine how anyone could see the Titanic in any other light.

Having studied the film on two occasions and prepared to teach on it, I now see many things in it which I had missed. The butterfly motif – the decoration on Rose’s hair combs – is vital to the story. It’s about how a young, unfettered man, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) assists a passionate but curtailed young woman Rose (Kate Winslet) escape her unwanted marriage into a dull life. Academics have amused themselves discussing the sexuality of Jack, mostly making ridiculous comments which belong more in the tabloids than in scholarly journals. My own masters essay responded to these and looked instead at that angle in Kate Winslet’s character. Jack is not a forceful man (my objection initially being that he looked far too young to be called a man at all). He lets Rose come on to him and make her own choices. French and Saunders laughed at the fact that Jack says ‘Never let go’ as he and Rose grasps onto wreckage, and then she does. But he meant, metaphorically. He knew that only one of them could live (though the F&S observation about the ‘single’ piece of wood is valid). Jack bravely chose to end his life which had already been full so that his love, Rose, could begin hers. In 1998, I felt Jack too young and the romance to rushed to have worked out. Whether it would have is not the point. It is one of those times when a person comes into your life for a short time and has a profound effect. Through Jack, Rose lived to be over 100 and accomplished all the things that they talked about but which, before Jack, Rose felt were impossible for her in her stifling existence.

I still feel that feigning one’s death to one’s family is rather cruel and wondered if Rose ever regretted that. I never will accept Jack being locked up as the ship sinks, although this did lead to one of the best action sequences by a female lead – and done in a frock. The valet, Lovejoy, was too caricatured. And the theme song went on, but not in way intended!

I’ve come to really admire the leads and Kate Winslet came to be among my favourite actresses, and my interest in the ship (which proceeded the film) prevails. Although I’ve come to see the amount of vision, thought and emotion in the film, I still feel that much of this is not appreciated by many viewers. Many, I think, saw Titanic once and didn’t have any wish to analyse the story – it felt as if it wasn’t the kind of find that repaid deeper thought or second viewing. There’s a perceived puffed up arrogance from Cameron, and I have mixed views about his anniversary relaunch – and my seeing it again. And he didn’t tell the only or most powerful story about that disaster –  it will come as no surprise that I have written my own.

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Further thoughts of Melancholia

I’m not done with Melancholia yet.

Whilst scheming getting to a suitable cinema where I can enjoy it fully for a second viewing, I have been thinking about it a full 2 days. In the middle, I saw another film, and the contrast was interesting.

I’m glad I only paid 99p to see Super 8. I only got the value of half of that. But what struck me was the difference between how Melancholia and Super 8 dealt with disaster. In Super 8, the train doesn’t just blow up – it carries on exploding. I think the train’s carriages all blow up twice. I wanted to shout: please! This has gone on too long. I felt like that when I first saw Titanic. We had to watch every detail imaginable. We had to see the plates smashing. I recall thinking – what a wasteful shot.

If Hollywood had made Melancholia, the village would have gathered for a vigil amid emotional squeals and they’d bond with their estranged Dad. The president would have spoken on behalf of the whole world. We’d see every shrub in the grounds and every utensil in the house be consumed by fire.

I liked the microcosmic approach, the lack of panicked radio chatter and running troops and no sirens.

I am not impressed by how much journalists say predictable things and how they have all likened Melancholia to a certain film.

I would like to say which 2 films it reminds me of – neither have been mentioned by any reviews I’ve read.

One is Solaris (2004). Both Solaris and Melancholia are named after fictional planets and use CGI but often sparingly. I recall the makers saying in the  extras of  Solaris that they could have chosen background shots of the planet to be in full view, to better justify the expensive effect. But they chose it to be a blue slice in the corner of the screen. Both planets are blue and have mysterious properties that bring behaviours of people in contact with it. They’re both melodramas and psychodramas, despite a potential sci fi label. George Clooney also falls prey to the planet at the end – this time by choice – but in both cases, protagonists unite united with loved ones. In both, it’s a powerful finale. The hypnoptic other worldy music of Solaris was used on a trailer prior to Melancholia’s screening. I have been listening to The Planets, wondering why LVT chose Wagner’s music for his film, and what the effect would be of playing Holst’s Mars over the  world’s end instead.

The other film that the first part reminds me of is After the Wedding, by another Danish director, though one key difference is humour. I recall Susanne Bier’s excellent piece being quite intense. The only thing I laughed at was its Danish title. As I said before of Melancholia, it’s not often I laugh that hard at the cinema. I only wish its trailer showed those laughs instead of showing the worst whispery lines of irritating children and a non stop intensity which is not representative.

The other thing I would like to comment on is Lars’s apparent critique of rituals: wedding day cake cutting, how one should say goodbye to the world (I laughed at Justine’s response to Claire’s idea for that)… and then having one anyway with the open to the sky space ‘tent’. I share a dislike of ritual to some extent.

I liked too that melancholiacs hate fakery and want the world to be real.

I’m also intrigued by the notion that melancholia was thought to be to do with humours and bile and planets. Humans have always believed (sometimes rightly) that heavenly bodies affect us – our tides, our periods, werewolfs. The planet Melancholia was thought to actually exist.

I’ve read more and thought again about the opening images and now I realise the grey treacle at the start is how Justine sees her depression, and that she sees herself as Ophelia, lying in water, drowning romantically.

I can see the romanticism with being melancholy – as did Anne of Green Gables and a pen friend I once had who billed herself thus…

I don’t agree with LVT’s doom and nihilism – or the sound of his next film. But I certainly enjoyed this and I am pleased that several other reviewers agree, although some of them were surprised at enjoying it too.

I would like to end with another plea to show this in suitable auditoriums. I wrote to a local cinema asking them to swap it from their 40 seat living room screen to their c200 seater main screen. They said that the other film they’ve booked is likely to be more popular, but Melancholia is gaining alot of attention at present, and is likely to appeal more widely than just to the audience who normally like LVT films. If I see that an epic film is not shown in suitable surrounds, I won’t go. Melancholia needs to be enjoyed as big and full as you can get. So at present I am stuck that no cinema in travelling distance is offering that and so my second viewing is not looking imminent – which means I and the box office lose out.

 

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