Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound commits the cardinal artistic sin of trying so hard to tell us something important that it tells us nothing insightful or interesting. It puzzles me why a director who generally understood better than any other the power of the camera to show rather than tell would want to pontificate about the use of psychoanalysis to investigate repressed memories as if he were delivering a thesis at a symposium of mental-health professionals. The film constitutes little more than dime-store Freudian pedantry.
These days, I think all Scorsese would have to do is cut a loud fart for the Academy and moviegoers alike to shout “Bravo!” After all, they did so over the Irish gangster flick The Departed, which cussed at them ad nauseam and gave them violence galore while saying next to nothing of value. Albeit Hugo reeks of a Disneyish vibe, shamelessly flaunting its 3-D graphical-clockworks extravaganza while getting all warm and cuddly about how wonderful it is that two young waifs are finding purpose in life. But all the more sickening for Marty, who used to be above merely pandering to the brainless mainstream. Seriously, is this cotton-candy-sweet Hugo helmed by the same iconoclast who spearheaded such gritty yet subtle character exposés as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas?