Hugo and its Genuine Weirdness

by - Thursday, December 06, 2012

Hugo is absolutely beautiful, and you can tell it is made by someone who loves film. You can also see the many spots where the 3-D comes into play in the theater. I have never seen a Martin Scorsese movie before this to my memory, and this just seems like a weird first example to go with.

We didn't love it. The story is sweet enough- very child friendly and a fun (if not entirely historically fair) premise. But by the end of its two hour run, we were genuinely desperate for it to just be over already!

Hugo's problem is, weirdly enough, on the sentence level. Every line is spoken with three beats for comas and like 6 for periods. I think it is some sort of intentional style, like Scorsese associates silent films with slowness, but it makes the film absolutely joyless and plodding because it just moves so slowly. Only one person can emote in any way at once, so it takes an extra minute just to do reaction shots. The movie is 2 hours long, and by the end you are just desperate for it to be over. I am pretty sure you couldn't even fix it on the editing level- it's the mis en scene, the on-set performances (especially by Ben Kingsley, who takes excruciatingly long to finish a sentence) that weigh the whole thing down.

One scene where this is especially weird is in a series of dream sequence when a train heads straight for the titular Hugo. It is the quickness of the train and the marked slowness of his reaction that causes a catastrophe. Then, imagines himself as an automaton and weirdly moves more quickly in his mechanical state. Here, Scorcese makes it clear that the slow responses are absolutely intentional, but I never understand what the point of this is. It just weighs everything down, like a paper written in all passive voice. It takes forever to get where it is going. It comes off as pretentious and empty where it is reaching for depth. It loses its dynamics, so when there should be remorse or despair it just feels staid.

The saddest part of this is that the film shows a genuine love for the mechanical and play which lies at the heart of early film. I loved the ideas, but I probably never need to see this movie again. 

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