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Posted by martinteller on September 23, 2012

I went into this with mixed expectations.  It seems to be both unfairly maligned and undeservedly praised.  And I came out of it with mixed feelings.  It’s a messy piece of work.  Scorsese adopted a Jeunet-like visual sensibility, with very fussy art direction and attention-grabbing tricks (I should note that I watched the film in good ol’ 2D, which I am aware could be considered “doing it wrong”).  Of course, it is a film about cinematic trickery, and maybe this is what turned me off the most.  The word “cinephile” almost invariably pops up in reviews of this film, but it’s overly concerned with the mechanics of filmmaking, which does not particularly appeal to my inner cinephile.  I haven’t seen a whole lot of Méliès… of what I’ve seen, I do enjoy the wizardry involved, its place in the technical history of moviemaking.  But that’s just a starting point for me, a means to an end.  I’m more concerned with what a film has to say or makes me feel rather than the whiz-bang golly-geeness of it.

Hugo does have some human things to say underneath all the fuss, and these are its most rewarding moments.  Things about “broken” people and finding your place in the world.  But they don’t ring very strongly.  While none of the performances were poor (Sacha Baron Cohen’s occasional buffoonery notwithstanding) there isn’t a one I would call special.  It all feels a bit… mechanical.  The more I think about it, the more distant I feel from it.  For a love letter to the movies (a phrase I’m getting mighty sick of), there isn’t much love emanating from it. Give me Singin’ in the Rain which bursts with joy and excitement, or 8 1/2 which explores the frustrations of artistic expression, or heck, even The Artist which is at least a mighty fun time.  I admire Scorsese’s passion (as his Personal Journey documentary expressed) and the attempt to bolster some support for film restoration.  But his effort here left me rather cold, like the iron skin of an automaton.  Rating: Poor (58)


6 Responses to “Hugo”

  1. JamDenTel said

    Do you think Asa Butterfield was miscast as Hugo? I just never bought him as a kid who’s supposed to be living by his wits; he did not have that inner strength.

  2. kevlarcardhouse said

    I too fit into a group of people who just couldn’t get into this film, and I’m usually the guy who likes Scorsese’s recent efforts more than seems typical. I didn’t hate it, but it never had much of an emotional resonance to me either.

    I also think it could have been better served by a director with more of a unique sense of dreamlike visual effects, like Michel Gondry or Tarsem Singh. For a film meant to be a love letter to the surreal work of Méliès, the CGI looked pretty generic to me most of the time, not really evoking anything in particular.

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