The Establishing Shot: Hugo Review - A film lovers gift from Martin Scorsese

Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hugo 3DI wept three times during Hugo. Not because Martin Scorsese lost it like with; Shutter Island (rather watch The Ninth Configuration) or The Aviator (rather watch paint dry) but rather because Martin Scorsese has made such a beautiful film that will touch anyone who loves film.

It is a film that transcends the crassness of show business whilst rolling out an entertaining adventure mystery. I’m hopelessly under qualified to try and review it. But I’m pretty sure Scorsese’s response to this would be something to the effect of “Hey, I’m just glad you enjoyed it” – but in a New York Accent.

In this age of Harry Potter. Surprisingly, Hugo starts off in the exact way that I had envisioned it, when I first heard about the film regarding a boy who lives in the walls of a Parisian railway Station during the 1930s that would star; Sir Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee. I was surprised because as spectacular as it was to see some incredible 3D and cinematography (classic sweeping Scorsese single takes IN 3D) within a period station. It seemed a little conventional for Martin Scorsese.Then the title flickers up and everything changes.

Video: Hugo 3D Trailer

The opening scene seems to serve as a showcase for what can be done with 3D in the hands of a very capable director, whilst setting the romantic almost Jeunet Parisian tone for the film. It introduces us to the world of Hugo, the station and its microcosm filled with people trying to connect. It also introduces the Hugo mood board and colour palette for this Scorsese film - rich woody yellows and golds.

Hugo is nothing at all like I expected, it is so much more. And I’m not going to be able to sufficiently articulate the feelings of childlike wonder and nostalgia it induced in me. Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s tribute to the magic of film and its many forgotten heroes. It is the continuation of Martin Scorsese’s personal journey into raising awareness of the lost heritage of cinema and reminding us of what film is, at its core. He does this by giving it a personality and face to the concept which is weaved into a mystery that needs to be unravelled.
Hugo is a very clever film that incorporates so many references to early filmmaking and particularly (and arguably) the invention of modern cinema in France. References permeate almost every possible element of the film; costumes, cinematography, set – ups, casting, style of acting, sets & locations, subject matter, stories within stories and many more aspects that I must have missed and much like the mystery of Hugo it will be a film lovers treasure hunt to decipher all the clues.

It is the story that involves many characters; this is a great device as you are never really sure of who is important and which character you have to pay attention to follow the story - so you are engaged throughout. In an almost vignette style all the characters play a part in revealing a mystery and then solving it. The story is told through the adventures of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) an orphan living in the forgotten and hidden parts of the train station and Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) the adopted daughter of Papa Georges (Sir Ben Kingsley) who runs a toy kiosk in the station. Isabelle joins Hugo’s mission to fix an automaton that is the only remaining link between Hugo and his deceased father (Jude Law).

Hugo’s daily life consists of secretly maintaining the smooth running of the stations clocks, stealing food and parts for his automaton whilst avoiding the omni present station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his evil Doberman. Being a homeless orphan in 1930s Paris is not a fun prospect and the threat of capture and being hauled off to the orphanage looms.

Together Hugo and Isabelle unlock the emotional mystery that draws on and represents not only film, but t creativity and life in general, that you would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by.

Even though Hugo’s two leads are children, Hugo is not just a kid’s story. Using two young leads is a device to galvanise our emotions which deepens the disappointment of failure and heightens the excitement and wonder as the story rolls out. In fact the themes and subjects it addresses are fairly adult. But Hugo includes enough visual excitement, humour and train crashes to keep children entertained while taking them on an adventure that educates.

I was never quite sure of the direction that Hugo was going to go, but as the mystery unravels Scorsese moves from hi-jinks adventure, emotional pathos, through pseudo documentary and leads to a high adventure race against time.

Video: James Cameron talks Hugo in 3D with Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese is a master filmmaker and a lot of thought has been applied to making his first 3D feature. Technically it is perfect and each frame is like a well composited photo as Scorsese creates a glorious, warm almost surreal version of 1930s Paris in line with the films bigger themes. Performances are exactly what you would expect them to be from a Scorsese film. With Sir Ben stealing the limelight from Asa and Chloë. Both the Asa and Chloë’s roles are slightly stifled by having to act in theme of early cinema. That is; Asa’s Hugo is an orphan and as apart of Scorses’s early film motif his character looks pallid and colourless evoking silent movie actors, but there are a couple of moments when Chloë’s facial over expression (although completely in theme) just seemed a little like a portfolio of cinematic looks.

As I say Hugo is a very clever film but will mainstream audiences like it? Well I loved Hugo and it is the only family fun style film to go into my list of top 10 films of 2011 and my top 30 all time films list. Hugo is truly Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the magic of film. Martin Scorsese has given a lot back to film. Continually banging on about the heritage of cinema, releasing documentaries exploring the heritage of film as well as is actively involved in restoring and distributing older films. In all honest, and even though I love film, to me this seemed like something, that someone else, was doing somewhere and had little impact on me. I guess this is partially due to the proliferation of the internet and also because I’m slightly spoilt by living in one of the greatest cities on earth and having seemingly unrestricted access to much of cinemas heritage. But Martin Scorsese’s Hugo really brought the message home to me in an entertaining spectacle.

Hugo release date: Fri 2 December, 2011

Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: John Logan, Brian Selznick
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Lee


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