24) Hugo (2011) Dir: Martin Scorsese Date Released: November 23, 2011 Date Seen: January 16, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5
Something struck me as I watched Hugo's most striking scene, the one where Hugo Cabret learns about the cinematic tradition that followed after Georges Méliès made his pioneering films. The sequence, which is a hodge-podge montage of disparate films, is scored by a lilting section from Camille Saint-Saëns's "Danse Macabre," one of my favorite pieces of music. Saint-Saëns's piece is a playful but bombastic composition that celebrates the metaphorical ritual of the Dance of the Dead. In the song, the dead rise from the ground for a night and thunderously cavort around their headstones until the break of dawn. It's a lively piece and one I feel is put to good use in Hugo.
But what bothers me about the specific portion of the song that was sampled in this montage is that the sampled section is a very romantic and soft portion of St. Saëns's often raucous piece. "Danse Macabre" is an irreverent tribute to the unquiet dead! I didn't see that same irreverence maintained in Scorsese's scene-long homage to the power of films and I didn't see it in the rest of his film's sweet but sometimes sappy tribute to films. I quite enjoyed Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen's performances though. And the Paris train station set was boffo, too. Still: more bombast, please.