Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, Helen McCrory, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law
Release Date: November 23, 2011
Martin Scorsese encounters no intense turmoil as he thwarts his inner urge to make another violent picture and involves himself with a luminously adventurous 3D film that has a little orphan boy at its center, as well as an immense homage to cinema. In one of the most inventive films of the year, Scorsese’s Hugo is an indelible delight that is meant to enchant audiences of every age. The way he uses this immersive 3D technology is enchantingly beautiful, bringing a distant world and all of its once unexplored recesses into our immediate presence.
Even those ardent followers of Scorsese’s genius will find visible evidence of his personal life and his previous films, all in which reverberate throughout Hugo. But what has to be realized is that this film could have only been brought to life by a man who harbors an infinite understanding of and an appreciation for the realm of cinema.
Voyeurs are what we all are when we congregate in a dark room and spellbindingly watch a new world being unraveled before us on the big screen. We take participation in this kind of event dozens of times a year, always ready to experience something new. Scorsese has always acknowledged that we are indeed all voyeurs. He proceeds to acknowledge this as he places Hugo Cabaret (Asa Butterfield), a young boy who recently becomes an orphan after his father (Jude Law) dies, inside the walls of a Parisian train station in the early 1900s.
Hugo dwells within the confines of these walls as well as within the meticulous designs of the multitudes of the station clocks’ mechanizations. A mournful burden it must be for young Hugo, who has to make sure all the station’s clocks are exactly set and correctly operating, a task once held drunkenly by his uncle (Ray Winstone). As he peers out onto the station, filled gorgeously with an array of vibrant shops, restaurants, bakeries, and florists, he finds a world that he wants to devour and be part of. He voyeuristically scans the crowd, sometimes finding an old man trying to get acquainted with an older woman who has a vicious little pooch and even spotting out the clumsy yet dedicated Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who has a crush on a florist (Emily Mortimer). We see this delectable Parisian world, even the fantastic aerial shots of the city’s skyline (thanks to Robert Richardson’s exquisite cinematography), through the eyes of Hugo: A boy who wants to discover in this city what his father left behind for him, and he will do it all with the help of a girl named Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and his father’s automaton.
What haunts this film, though, is an indistinguishable anguish that is well concealed behind an ostensibly innocent rendering of an orphan’s life in Paris. The comparisons to Dickens’ Oliver Twist are inevitable and the ties the film has to the bildungsroman genre are all too blatant. But it takes an inquisitive eye to demonstrate something beyond the traditional, and Scorsese, along with Brian Selznick who wrote the book in which this film is based off of (The Invention of Hugo Cabret), does so with invariable veracity.
Hugo’s escapades throughout the station are a mere but extraordinary set-up that will lead viewers to the heart of the film. When Hugo observes an old man by the name of Georges Melies (cinephiles are familiar with the name) dozing off while on duty at his magic shop, he quickly attempts to steal a few tools that he can get some use out of. Many times he did this, and many times Melies (played delightfully by Ben Kingsley) knew but never once did he catch him. When he awakes and finds Hugo’s arm desperately reaching for some tools, he grabs hold of it. Scolding him he takes Hugo’s pocket-book full of intricate mechanical drawings. Melies is amazed and seizes the book, telling an inconsolable Hugo he will burn it if he doesn’t return all of the tools he has stolen from him. Soon, Hugo and this man become much more involved than either of them initially perceived.
To expound any further would tarnish the film’s initial wonderment. We have dreamed with Scorsese many times and in many different ways. But Hugo seems to be different, a deliberate departure from all of his previous works as he indulges in a personal, whimsical desire or dream that he has seemingly been concealing for years.
For the first time we see what Scorsese is really concerned about: the appreciation and preservation of cinema and that “something” most authors, poets and other great scholars concerned themselves with, and that is the fact of being remembered and not being part of a planned obsolescence. Scorsese is striving for something magnificent here and aspiring to a realm where he will be guaranteed to be remembered. And the result he conceives is a resplendent film that indubitably fits into not only the Scorsese cannon but into all cannons of film.
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****