A Trip to Boring

March 15, 2012

So, I’m sitting in my living room with Hugo on our relatively small but impressively flat new monitor, and my twelve-year old son comments, a minute or two in, that it seems to be moving awfully slow. He reiterates this sentiment when the title card meanders into sight, many more minutes into the flick. I agree. My thirteen-year old step-daughter flits by, and since she saw it in the theater, my son asks, “does the movie stay so boring?” and she replies, that yes, it really does. There are some good sentimental parts to be sure but she’d advise “multi-tasking during the movie” to make it tolerable.

Granted, we were watching it flat and not 3D (where I imagine one would need time to make sense of all that space), and as I’ve already admitted, the image was pretty small, considering, but given that this is supposed to be a children’s movie, albeit by one of our great grown-up directors, and our children mostly watch Hugos like this

one must consider that Scorsese must be being petulantly, self-referentially, or didactically slow, which makes good sense, given that the film is about how machines move things like images, writing, desire, stories and history, and that these machines themselves have histories, and all these histories and images are moving away from our cultural memories at lightening speed, even as they are also being preserved. But those ideas are frankly not of much interest to children because in many ways this they already know given their own immersion in the digital, and also because Scorsese peevishly expresses them through images that are not of interest to anyone but cineastes.

I don’t usually think of myself as a cineaste, but I often play one at school. And I like, and teach, and admire A Trip to the Moon as much as the next PhD in Cinema Studies. So, now I’m thinking, Scorsese thinks he can sneak in the nasty film history and boring silent movie parts by embedding them in a sappy story with 3D and movie stars, which really is pretty much what The Artist did as well, albeit without any of the didactic lessons in slowness (which is probably why it won the Oscar), and 127 Hours did by speeding things up, and Singin’ in the Rain did just fine already

Which is why I’d choose Pina any day, because at least Wenders doesn’t pretend not to be anything but what he is, an erudite artist celebrating and experimenting with space, time, memory and cinema with technologies old and new.