[1997. Directed by James Cameron. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane. 20th Century FoxParamount Pictures. 194 mins.] ft Q m Cinema at ts best stri ves towards verisimilitude. And when a film fails, it's as often due to technical limitations as due to its creator's lack of imagination. For filmmakers are often forced to settle for only a partial realization of their creative intent. And oddly enough, it's often the film closest to real ty rather than f arthest away that proves the hardest to realize. K may be for these technical and logistical challenges that science fiction master craftsman James Cameron decided to recréate the legendary north Atlantic disaster of the R.M.S. Titanic. The 1912 sinking of this supposedly impregnable luxury ocean liner had already been filmed as a starring vehicle for Clifton Webb by 2Oth Century Fox in 1 953 and England's Rank Films weighed in with their 1 958 British allstar A Night to Remember. Both Titanic films were marked by clever sets, better acting, and so-so special effects handcuffed by relatively low budgets. The recent computer generatedrevolutioninfilmmaking, however, has rewritten the book on what's possible to visualize on the silver screen and Cameron haschosen to challenge the medium's now expanded boundaries on hls terms. So much so, in fact, the film's release date was postponed six months because of his alleged perfectionism. Cameron chose artistic deliberation over commercial considerations after racking up $200 million dollars to make what will undoubtedly be his masterwork. Indeed, it was speculated at one time Cameron's career was going to sink as the ship did 85 years ago. He ultimately gave up both his profit participationanddirector'sfeeasthefilm'scomple- tion collateral. Cameron's gamble has paid off. Taking his time to get it done right has resulted in what will certainly be the last cinematic word on this historie event. For Titanic leaves nothing to one's imagination except for the sheer suspension of disbelief. And even as the tragic tale unfolds before our eyes, there's still a touch of an exhilarating emotionalridetothis gripping seaward adventure. For Cameron'sgoneabout nis business cleveriy. Where the previous Titanic films more-or-less triedto recréate history, he has merely ten it. He follows the same lines of such esteemed love stories as Gone With the Wind, Doctor Zhivago, and The Yearof Living Dangerously (not at all bad company to keep) to give his history lesson a healthy fictional dollop of human interest. This is a wise move because the star-crossed romance of Americans Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukater(Kate Winslet) gives Titanic's narrative a personal element that plays out splendidly against the film's awenspiring special effects. Dawson, an American artist lucking his way home through Titanic's third-class passage chances upon the unhappily betrothed firstclass Rose just two days before the ship meets its untimely calamity. He saves her life as Rose contemplates jumping overboard rather than marry unlikable upper-crust Cal Hockley (Billy Zane). The two f ree spirits then manage a couple of days of happiness before the film's raison d'être kicks into gear. The wait - as melodramatic as it may sound - is well worthwhile. Cameron's internalized the shipwreck's history and thoroughly imagined what the disaster must have looked like. From the Atlantic Ocean's inexorable onslaught to the hellish appearance of more than a thousand frozen corpses bobbing in the water's icy grip, Titanio paints a compelling interpretaron of this unhappy event that's a touching love story and maritime nightmare. It's also Hollywood movie making at its best. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL [1997. Directedby Curtís Hanson. Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce. Warner Bros. 136 mins.] Making movies is not an easy art. As the legions of subst andard feature films prove yearly, t's an extraordinarily difficult aesthetic to master. Still, given the limitations of Hollywood's 1920s and 1930s, and Europe's rejuvenating 1 950s and 1 960s, t's also been decisi vely proven filmmaking is capable of satisfying and intelligent fare. This is what makes most of American filmmaking in the 1 990s so depressing. The average script is written for teens and the quality of the productions is often geared indifferently. For the longest time - with the rare exceptions of some independent filmmmaking - most U.S. films produced couldn't be called much better than pap fiction. Curtis Hanson's relentless LA. Confidential has thoroughly upset these minimal exceptions. Working in film noir, the only contemporary film genre registering legitímate freshness, Hanson has crafted a muit i-d mensional west coast crime story so sprawling and ambitious it threatens to break loose of its moorings. Carved out of the writings of James Elroy, LA. Confidential convincingly drips with a gaudy Los Angeles atmosphere that's equal parts seedy, glamorous, subtle, and tough. Using Danny DeVito's cynical voice-over as an all-knowing scandal sheet narrator, the story charts a neariy befuddling 1 950's crime wave that mingles politics, racism, andjoumalism with heady abandon. The fact all this mayhem nvolves the L.A.P.D. only makes the mix all the more volatile. The film revolves around the exploits of three Los Angeles detectives. Flashy Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) knows where all the wrong skeletons are buried. Fiery Bud White (Russell Crowe) is an incorruptible cop trying to figure out how his trusted partner could get mixed up with a racist Christmas Eve bust. And youthful Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) s methodicaily tracking down some sordid departmental intemal affaire. If these three story lines don't seem to have a lot in common, it's because Hanson's screenplay takes its time threading its narrati ve needie. How these three stories intertwine with yellow journalist Sid Hudgeons' (Danny DeVito) "Hush-Hush" rag is as ingenious as the f ilm's relentless search forjustice. From the glamorous back lots of Hollywood to the inner-city depression of South Central Los Angeles - and all points in-between - LA. Confidential confidently paints a tapestry of betrayal, lust and revenge that's equal to anything in Hollywood's golden era. And where it differsform earlier Hollywood resides in our current moral climate. For the best of film noir always had a sublimated hint of inevitable justice hidden beneath the story's surface. This is what makes The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and 77je Big Heat peculiarly satisfying. When Chinatown changed the rule-book in the mid-70s, the genre spun into a tailspin. Arthur Penn's compelling Night Moves later llustrated what happens when noir's hermetically inclined iconography didn't allow for any interpretation. And 1 996's blighted Mulholland Falls - which attempted the same sprawling timeline and story line as LA. Confidential - showed what happens when the genre's crucial elements don't quite jell. That LA. Confidential wears as well as t does is remarkable in its own complex right. As New Jack City, Pulp Fiction, and The Usual Suspects have shown recently, there's stilt mileage to be had out of hard-boiled dialogue. But that noir can be done as a period piece with contemporary sensibilities is a wry wrinkle. As Hanson's film archly portrays, the good guys will ultimately win out. But not before a few well-timed reversals of fortune remind us of the evil lurking behind the false smiles of black-hearted villains and the wiles available to the infinitely resourcef ui femme fatale. RATING KEY ft Acting H Cinematography Direction tE Editing & Narrative Sound Special Effects When a symbol appears following a Mie, timplies that the corresponding category is a strength of the movie.