Published on November 23rd, 2011 | by dvdpinson0
Hugo is simply magic
With “Hugo,” Martin Scorsese has made a beautiful lesson on the history of cinema. While the film has the sensibilities of the classics and concerns itself with the early beginnings of filmmaking, “Hugo” is also a thoroughly state-of-the-art affair with stunning use of 3D technology. Here we have a visual master playing with a new toy and the result is film that is truly told in 3 dimensions.
We are taken to a storybook version of Paris sometime in the early 30s. Down the streets we go as we see people hustle their way through the day. Think the endless zoom shots from “Limitless” better choreographed and presented in crisp 3D so vivid that you feel like you have to duck and swerve out the way of the oncoming citizens. It is in the heart of Paris that we find a vast train station that is the home of a young orphan named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield).
Hugo lives in the walls of the station, manning the huge clocks that tick away throughout the depot. There amongst the gears and mechanical movements, Hugo has been working hard to fix a metal automaton- a sort of early robot- that is the last link he has to his deceased father (a brief Jude Law). But to get the machine to work, Hugo must find a heart shaped key that will unlock the mystery of its origins.
I really wanted to get through the synopsis without using the phrase “unlock the mystery” but I couldn’t do it. Sorry. The best alternative I could come up with was “unlatch the secret” and that doesn’t have much of a ring. “Unravel the enigma”? See, doesn’t work.
Scorsese is a hardcore cinephile whose knowledge regarding cinema’s past is exhaustive. “Hugo” is a film that illustrates this passion more than any other project he has made in the past. Early parts of the film are told in pantomime as Hugo watches people live their lives through faces of the grand clocks at the station. Many of the relationships features a romantic innocence that is best described as old fashioned. This is Scorsese drawing heavily from the films he loves and the affection shows.
The cinematography by Robert Richardson is the real star here. You will not see a prettier film this year. Richardson is a megastar with camera, working along side Scorsese for years while also being the go-to for Quentin Tarantino and many of Oliver Stone’s important, early films. “Hugo” is a film that must be seen on the biggest screen you can find. This is what 3D should be used for, as spectacle that actually helps in telling the story.
The film is well cast and Butterfield is striking as our young hero. Chloe Grace Moretz (“Let Me In,” “Kickass”) gives another strong performance as Isabelle, Hugo’s only friend who helps him unlatch the secrets of the world around him. (That wasn’t so bad.) Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat,” “Bruno”) plays a baddie station inspector that runs around rounding up orphans with his giant Doberman. Cohen is a misstep. His comedic material is too contemporary for the film and he seems out of place.
The hope is that “Hugo” finds an audience. This is a 2 hour-long kid’s film that may be challenging to a young audience in pacing and subject. But the film has plenty of whimsy and is, most importantly, wholly original. “Hugo” is magic.