Saturday, December 3, 2011
I'm sure everyone who is a fan of Martin Scorsese, or at least, was aware of his work thought him making a children's movie was quite peculiar. But once you actually go to see Martin Scorsese's latest film "Hugo," you soon begin to realize that this film is probably the most emotional and personal film he has made in his career. Mean Streets may have been a more realistic personal film, and Hugo doesn't take out any literal pages from his life. But all the basic stuff is there: the child who loves movies, the joy of making films, the desire to preserve old films. Basically, by watching this film, you get a much deeper understanding of what filmmaking means to Martin Scorsese. No, it's not strictly a children's film. It's a film that children can see, but it's for everyone. Like The Muppets, I could not be more thrilled to see movies targeted at kids and adults that doesn't treat its moviegoers like they're idiots. "Hugo" is imaginative, fantastical, and makes great use of 3-D technology. While that is all great in itself, it's the unexpected emotional depth of the film that makes it so great.
Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lives in a train station and helps fix all the clocks inside. After his father died, he was taken in by his drunken Uncle who taught Hugo how to fix clocks. Soon it was just Hugo all by himself, taking care of the clocks in the train station. Everyone else at the train station, however, are either oblivious to Hugo or just think he's a thief. One of these people includes Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley) who at one point threatens to call the security guard (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) if Hugo keeps stealing from his toy store. This relationship between Hugo and Papa Georges is what is explored throughout the film. You find out about Hugo's backstory and Papa George's backstory and the way they connect with each other. As we discover, Papa Georges happens to be Georges Melies one of cinema's first visionaries.
It's that discovery, that backstory, where we really get to the heart of what the film is all about. What's so great about "Hugo" is how it sneaks in a brief education about Georges Melies and the whole era of early silent filmmaking. The way it shows us his life work, the overall celebration of his films, really took the film to a whole different level. It's no longer just an escapist family film. This is a poignant film about a man who thought his whole life work, his whole purpose in life, was completely lost but with the help of this young boy, he is able to re-discover who he is.
I'd like to think Martin Scorsese sees something in both Hugo and in Georges Melies. In Hugo, he sees the little boy that he once was. The little boy that was overly enthusiastic about film, who felt a need to fix things, and ultimately wanted to help keep Georges Melies work alive. But then there's also George Melies. The old filmmaker who feels rejuvenated by Hugo. While Scorsese always makes his films with a great amount of energy, this film has freed up to allow him to explore something he has never really gotten into before: childhood.
If there was anything about the movie that I wasn't too taken with, it may have been the child actors. It's not that they were bad, and Chloe Moretz has proven she's a talented young actress. But Asa Butterfield had a tough task with his role as Hugo and I wasn't always completely convinced with him. Plus, even though the second half of this film is extraordinary and practically perfect, I felt the first half moved a little too slowly. It took a little while for the movie to get going, but once it did get going, it was quite the adventure. In fact, I left a lot of other key elements and plot details out of this review because there's no need to spell it all out for you...
Overall though, "Hugo" is a visionary delight. Martin Scorsese's work with 3-D looks effortless. After about a year of hearing Scorsese talk up 3-D technology, finally we are able to see what he was talking about. The way he uses 3-D is perfect. It adds that extra dimension of depth that puts you further into the movie whereas so many other films use 3-D in a way that takes you out of the movie. Plus, how can you not love watching long tracking shots in 3-D? Technically, the film most definitely moves like a Martin Scorsese movie and yet it's so different than anything he has ever done. Just when you think you had him all figured out, Scorsese goes out and does it again. The man is a filmmaking maestro.