Titanic ★★★★★

Jack: You don’t know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next.

The shots of the Titanic - that great ‘unsinkable’ vessel - moving through the night towards a horizon it will never reach, carrying thousands of people with thousands of stories and thousands of hopes and dreams that would never last the night, are maybe the most haunting in any mainstream film ever made. There’s a reason this was for a long time the biggest and most expensive film ever made - its emotion is matched only by its enormity, its sweep of every strata of society equaled only by its intricately reconstructed vision of the most beautiful man-made disaster in waiting of all time.

It has been posited many times that the very act of creating cinema is inherently a form of creating ghosts and conjuring spirits. Here, James Cameron communes with thousands, bringing back to us so much that has irretrievably been lost in time so that we may know the tragedy as if it were our own, so that we may go on from the experience emboldened and impassioned to love more deeply, live more passionately, and appreciate the sheer luck and cosmic impermanence of our fragile mortal souls.

Stunning on every single level, from lead performances to ensemble, costuming to set decoration, production design to musical composition, plotting to practical effects, verisimilitude to emotional and experiential viscera, every creak to every crash, this is one of those once-in-a-generation films that you truly have to say is felt rather than seen. It bores into the heart and mind and intoxicates the senses and spirit like few other films can. It’s unapologetically melodramatic, garishly romantic, and aches with the same mournful nostalgia as Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. There hours pass in a vacuum as you aren’t just watching history recreated on screen - you very much find yourself living within its gravitational pull.

The framing device adds documentarian nous and further dramatic weight and heft, and it also increases the sense of a hauntology at play. Flitting between the promise of a past unburdened by knowledge of the immediate future and the decaying, degenerative, synaptic and incendiary reality of a post-tragedy present day, Cameron offers a ghost story that extends beyond the film’s own dimensions to actively draw us into its folds. Titanic is a fucking amazing achievement in cinema. Just a shame about the boat really in all honesty.

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