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Hugo

There had been so much critical acclaim for this film that I finally went to see it.  (I also went to see it because it had a 7:35 start time which was easier to make than other films.)  I had also read Walter Jon’s blog post about how it was the best use of 3D since AVATAR.

He was right.  The 3D was stunning, and thing was in our fairly crappy little theater up here in Santa Fe that isn’t really set up for 3D.  It was also integrated throughout the film rather than just making itself felt when a spear thrusts out at you, or a car seems to be coming into the theater.

I thought the kids were terrific, and Sacha Baron Cohen was wonderful as the obsessive inspector.  There was also a lovely little love story riff that played out almost entirely with visuals between the elderly cafe owner, and her love sick elderly suitor with the lady’s ferocious Dachsund playing the duenna.  Christopher Lee as the bookstore owner — wonderful.

There’s the crabby old toy store owner played by Ben Kingsley who doesn’t soften his performance one bit just because he’s playing off a kid.  He’s a right bastard to the boy, taking his notebook and making the child think he’s burned it.  But there was a problem created by said notebook that I’ll get to later.

This movie also hit all my buttons.  There were clocks, and a clockwork automaton, and the sense that a mysterious message was going to arrive from the boy’s dead father.  (Speaking as a woman I would have loved to have more Jude Law.  God that guy is pretty). 

So I’m rolling along with this movie and enjoying it, the visuals of a 1920’s Paris are stunning, and then the kids get the automaton to work, and my tension is ratcheting up — what will it write?  And then it draws a picture of a scene from Le Voyage dans la lune directed by Georges Méliès.  It had been established that Hugo’s dad used to take him to the movies and loved this film, but then a different movie starts.

All about old films and their preservation, and the kids realize that cranky toy store owner and the girl’s guardian is in fact Georges Méliès, and then there’s a film historian who shows up who just happens to be obsessed with Méliès, and at first the old guy is mad, and then he sadly tells his story (which goes on for a really long time), and then at end of his sad tale he talks about how he built this automaton, so Hugo rushes off to get said automaton, and ends up on a train track, and then Hugo finds a family.  But it feels almost like an afterthought.  I got the strange feeling that preserving these old films was more important than preserving the child.

Either one of these movies was quite enjoyable, I happen to really like old movies, but they felt like they had been forced together.  I haven’t read the book.  Maybe the preservation of old film is critical in the book too, but it made for an odd viewing experience.

There was also a weird logic problem that quite bothered me.  If Méliès had in fact built the automaton why didn’t he question the kid about the drawings of the automaton in the notebook?  If they had just had a conversation a lot of problems would have been solved without Hugo ending up on a train track with a train coming, etc.  Obviously the movie would have been a lot shorter if that conversation had taken place, but that starts to fall dangerously close to the “idiot plot” for me, a thing I hate to say when we’re discussing Scorsese.

I would recommend this movie, though I’m not exactly sure what I was supposed to take away from it.  That Hugo fixes things?  I guess.

 

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