Synecdoche, New York
If we don't "go to the movies" in any form, our minds wither and sicken.
Q. Does the character of Rose (as the old woman) die in her sleep at the end of "Titanic?" I've asked a few people who saw the movie, and none of them had that interpretation, but most agree once I've outlined it to them. She tells her story for the first time, and returns the necklace to the ocean and Titanic's resting place, completing the circle of her life. Then, we see her asleep in bed, after the camera slowly moves through her photos, illustrating the full life that she lived. Then, through subjective camera we're welcomed back to the ship, looking new, and greeted by passengers who died when the ship went down. Then she has a big reunion kiss with Jack. Was this just a dream? Or does this scene represent her being welcomed by her fellow shipmates, who have been dead for decades, and her finally joining them? Is this the obvious interpretation, or was it purposely left vague? (Scott Hoenig, Washington, DC)
A. "It's open to interpretation," according to a Paramount source who spoke with director James Cameron. My feeling is that the scene provides emotional closure, and should be appreciated on that level; whether she has rejoined the voyage in her dreams or in the afterlife, it is equally a fantasy, providing the inspiration for one of the film's most evocative sequences, in which the shattered hulk on the ocean floor comes once again to life.
Q. I saw Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" the other day and enjoyed it. One thing I noticed at the end, when he's dreaming and all of his characters are assembled to forgive him, is there are two or three quick shots of an actress who looks just like Mia Farrow. If this is true, it seems that Woody is wishing that someday Mia will forgive him. Can you confirm if this actress is supposed to be Mia Farrow? (Jon Pietrowski, Genoa, OH)
A. According to a representative of Allen's, any similarity was purely coincidental: "Woody does not choose his extras and had nothing to do with it." My opinion: If Allen had thought one of the extras looked like Farrow, he would not have used her.
Q. Re your review violently blasting "I Spit On Your Grave." Over the years, I have read a number of cult movie books, and when they talk about this movie they mention your infamous blasting as the reason why the movie has attracted a large audience. (One author said that when he watched the heated review on your TV show, the movie immediately went on his "must-see" list). They feel that without your blasting, the movie would have been forgotten. Do you agree with this theory? Would you have reviewed the movie differently had you known the future? (Keith Bailey, Vernon, British Columbia)
A. I can't say I've spotted "I Spit on Your Grave" (1980) on any lists of top-grossing films. That must be an indication that my influence is less than you suggest. I'm crushed. Wouldn't you think when I describe something as the worst movie of all time, that would inspire a run on the box office?
Q. While watching the end credits for "An American Werewolf in Paris," I caught the name "Boris Karloff" listed for a Carpenter Technician. This can't be real, can it? Is it Boris Jr, or did someone change their name specifically for this project? Or were the sets so bad that the Technician used the name, a la Alan Smithee, to hide? (Robert Haynes-Peterson, Boise, Idaho)
A. A Hollywood Pictures spokesman tells me: "This person was hired as a trainee during the filming, and thus was a non-contract person. He may have been on the set for only a week. They did list his name on the credits because he did work on the film; however, they are unable to track him down. Chances are this is his real name, but we cannot confirm it."
Q. Was just watching the newly-restored version of "Vertigo," reviewed in your "Great Movies" series. In the opening credits, the camera pans across the face of a woman and then focuses in on her eye. Who was the model for that sequence? Was it Alfred Hitchcock's daughter, Patricia? (Tom Norris, Braintree, Mass.)
A. According to Robert Harris, who with James Katz restored the Hitchcock classic, "The name of the actress/model we see behind the main titles in `Vertigo' is Audrey Lowell. She lives in Los Angeles.
A. I'm afraid so. The formula: Clever little boys (or mice, or tiny people under the floorboards) outsmart bumbling big people with ingenious Rube Goldberg devices. Aren't the "Alien" pictures the horror version of this, with the creatures creeping through the innards of the ship, and the heroes thinking of desperate ways to outsmart them?
Q. I've heard that an American version of "Shall We Dance" is a very possible reality. Last I heard was that Demi Moore wanted it as a vehicle. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Should someone tell her what the plot was? Naw. Anyone thinking of remaking this film is obviously not interested in the plot. (Paul Florance, Seal Beach, CA)
A. People have an unfair way of attaching Demi Moore's name to every rumor that comes along. This one sounds like a bad joke that's pretending to be serious. "Shall We Dance" isn't remakable in America unless the entire context and purpose is changed. When an successful imported project is remade, Hollywood routinely misses the point of the original, and vulgarizes the result (see the U.S. versions of "La Femme Nikita" and "The Vanishing").
Q. In "The Ice Storm," there's a big ice storm on the Friday of that Thanksgiving weekend in Connecticut. I was wondering if this actually occurred there, or if it was just artistic license. (Edward Matthew Prigge, Philadelphia, PA)
A. According to Darren Soldikoff of Fox Searchlight Pictures, "There was an actual ice storm in 1973 at Thanksgiving. The movie was filmed in the summer, however, so the ice storm had to be recreated. The book is not based on any true story nor is it based on that ice storm--but in the novel, it's written that way." And director Ang Lee adds that the "ice" was actually an special effect, made of a gelatinous substance.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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