Martin Scorcese Makes His Fantasy Biography

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As a children's film, Martin Scorsese'sHugois overwrought and under thought. Its story of Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphaned boy who lives in a Paris train station where he surreptitiously maintains the clock mechanisms, suggests a fantasy autobiography. He wants to think of himself as a child of cinema, always working behind the scenes at the actual preservation of old films and-egotistically-maintaining the very idea of cinema. Unfortunately, it's the idea of cinema thatHugoshortchanges-just as Scorsese betrays what at one time seemed his gift.

These are Scorsese's hack years. He hasn't made a decent movie since hitching his cineaste ambitions to Leonardo DiCaprio's box-office power. Each recent catastrophe (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island), routinely hailed by critics as masterpieces, lacked the personal, real-world touch that had been the promise ofWho's That Knocking at My Door, Mean StreetsandTaxi Driver. The childhood fantasy inHugodoesn't express Scorsese's urban Italian Catholic sensibility; it's a false, Pixar-ish externalization of the ethnic, hormonal and psychic tensions that distinguished even a second-tier Scorsese movie likeThe Color of Money-it was either about a boy's search for an artistic father figure, or a brash young acolyte's competition and infatuation with a mentor, take your pick.

To read more of Armond White's review, head toCity Arts.

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