Burly Writer

My photo
I'm a Writer, if by Writer you mean a misanthrope.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Anti-HUGO

HUGO has become everyone's darling. It's a movie with TITANIC-era gloss and pomp, with a magnificent array of schmaltz.

Schmaltz can be a good thing. I don't respond to it necessarily, in general, but HUGO is undeniably appealing to many movie-goers. Maybe in a depressed economy HUGO's the kind of movie, like STAR WARS in its time, which creates a world of fun and innocence by which people can pack up their cares and woes for a while.

In the 1940s, Hollywood turned into the singing and dancing machine, cranking out one silly shiny romantic and ultimately mass-fulfilling movie after another. In Europe, the same thing happened, except the Euro-version of Ginger Rogers was forced to dance around piles of bombed-out debris. No one wanted to see real misery during World War 2, so Hollywood and the other Allies produced sugary dreams full of leggy angels and darling quips.

HUGO is what I'd call "wisty-eyed." It's the kind of movie born of a complete lack of poignancy, yet so willing to please that you cannot fault it. You cannot dislike or remotely hate HUGO as a movie. Certainly, as I've heard, the book is brilliant and much-beloved.

HUGO in 1973, a Martin Scorcese picture.

The fact that Martin Scorcese, who has spent most of his career gut-shooting pimps and blowing up casino owners, directed this sweet delightful cookie of a movie is hardly my issue. In fact, if I hadn't known, I would have never guessed it, as Scorcese as a director or writer is nowhere to be found.

Not altogether true. Scorcese is found, in the heavy-handed fund-raising character of Rene Tabard, a film historian absolutely resolute in preserving/saving lost movies. A pet Scorcese project, for sure, and an extremely important one. Do not get me wrong on this point. But here's the thing: HUGO comes off as mechanical as the automaton at its plot core.

Two and half hours of HUGO later.

I don't write this to be contrarian, and I did see HUGO in 3-D, which I have no use for as a money-grab tech, since it's purely designed for young people who adore shiny things dancing before their eyes. Like many, I was smitten by the falling snow flakes which seemed to come to rest on my 3-D spectacles. And certainly Scorcese gives you three dimensions, if you wish to have them, with rampaging trains and clacking clock's inner workings and dizzying testicle-shrinking heights.

It's alive, and intends to stay that way.

I want people to enjoy HUGO before they enjoy most of the Hollywood tripe. HUGO is good for the culture. But I'm not sure it's a great movie, even if it is a movie of such pleasant whimsy that only a blackhearted villain could have thought, "This movie is too long. When will it end? How many more times must I gaze into Hugo's beautiful blue tear-rimmed eyes while he plaintively asks for help?"

For everyone who loves HUGO: I'm happy. I'd show this movie to anyone, of any age, fearless in the certainty that they would love it. HUGO is IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, or GUYS AND DOLLS, or SINGING IN THE RAIN. It's a movie that is wonderful, eager and playful as a puppy. And like a puppy, it can chew your shoes and piddle on the carpet. You can only sigh and put it outside to play, play on, into the cultural twilight.

No comments:

Post a Comment