scotartt on Thu, 19 Feb 1998 09:08:10 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Re: Titanic

> Pierre Roche and the New York Dadaists. Unlike the Kate Winslett character
> who anachronistically bought Monet canvases that would already have been
> worth tens of thousands of dollars at the time the Titanic sailed,

Not to mention Picasso's that weren't painted yet... and other paintings
which are obviously not at the bottom of the Atlantic because you can go
and see them at MOMA and elsewhere!

I am fascinated by the Tianic's notions of "authenticity" which are at
play in teh movie. Apart from non-authentic (ie two-dimensional)
characterisations, I mean. There is an inordinate amount of extraordinary
detail in the movie which is not always immediately apparent unless you
see the "making of" television special. This special goes to great lengths
to explain just how authentic for example, the crockery in the dining room
is, made by the same company that the original, how the interiors were
constructed by the same techniques in the original materials, how much
time they spent at the bottom of the Atlantic filming the wreck, etc etc.
The dining plate example for example to me seems fairly spurious -- I mean
does anyone really know or remember what the plates actually looked like,
and what does it matter to movie audiences anyway? In contrast the
generated effects sometimes appeared unreal and highlighted their actual
digital-ness: for example the ship sails across a -perfectly smooth and
flat- ocean. Now I have spent some years being tossed around inside 4000
tonnes of deadly grey steel on the Pacific and Indian oceans, and I can
state categorically I have never seen an Ocean without at least -some-
swell on it. A 'glassy' ocean usually means one without locally-generated
wind rippling;  there is always swell no matter how tiny and you can -see-
it because it forms a regular patterning right to the horizon.
Particularly when moonlight shines across it. Maybe the Atlantic is a
special condition; not having sailed on it I cannot say, but oceans are of
course big dynamical systems which are in a state of constant flow and
resonating vibration, the end result of which we usually experience
as -weather-. 

So all of this may well be a huge pedantic niggle; but consider that the
movie invites it, by insisting on a micro-authenticity on a scale the
viewer is not likely to notice without being -told- (hence the 'making of'
special?), but failing to account for a much-easily seen
macro-authenticity: non-real natural systems, usual standard cardboard
cut-out characters, art that can'tpossibly be  in that place at that time.
Bear in mind that the film purports to be at least on some level

Not that I consider Titanic a special case in this regard. In Hollywood
films in general, there appears to be a very schizophrenic 'realism' in
operation which allows this massive dichotomy betwen mico-detail and
macro-believability. I think this ambivalent approach operates in nearly
all levels of films, not just in my above example of the way the world is
'modelled'. Some films go to enormous lengths to accrue dramatic realism
and then its characters just wig out at the crisis moment and behave in a
completely stupid fashion. I'm sure we have all sat in a movie and thought
to ourselves, "just shoot the guy you stupid fucker!" (or whatever). I've
often marvelled at how non-militarily military people act in your average
'military' film, or even for example, in Star Trek (no Captain would EVER
land himself or his XO on any hostile situation, let alone himself AND his
XO AND his chief engineering officer).

I don't pretend to have any great theoretical insight into this
phenonemon, but I find it greatly interesting as to why 'Hollywood'
obsesses about certain types of 'authenticity' and completely forgets
about others. Cameron made a great deal about how 'authentic' his film
was, yet in the final analysis, it seems to me that thsi reductionist
obsession for small insignificant details means the 'big picture' is
greatly overlooked: the classic case of not seeing the forest for the
trees? Perhaps there's some definition of 'authenticity' in operation here
perhaps:  that the authentic is defined (for Hollywood) as only
micro-detail? The other thing I like to ponder is just how is this
connected to notions of realism in sound design and photography, how it
connects to the ideals of 'primitive authenticity' which we demand of
indigenous cultures before we recognise them as such, and so on.

Well this post doesn't purport to reach any conclusions about any of the
above; its just a train of thought I've been having which was triggered by
the Titanic movie, or more specifically the 'making of' documentary, which
I thought I'd share with the list. 


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