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Monday, November 28, 2011

"This is the Place Where Dreams are Made"- A Review of Hugo

I will tell it to you straight, when I saw the first trailer for Martin Scorsese's newest film Hugo, I was anything but impressed.  The trailer presented it in such an awful way I had no desire to ever see the film.  The trailer involved a lot of Hugo running around the train station, being chased by the Station Inspector (played by Sacha Baron Cohen).  It felt really goofy and not in a fun way.  It felt like another family film about a small English, orphan boy.  Let me say this now.  Hugo is almost nothing like what the trailer depicted.  I felt like I was lied to.  Yes, Hugo does his fair share of running from the inspector, but it's such a small part of the film I wonder why it was even shown in the trailers?  Whatever, I'm over it.  Hugo is at it's core a film about film, or even more specific, about film preservation.  Hugo is the son of a watchmaker (played by Jude Law) and has a natural penchant for fixing things he finds that are broken.  His father is involved in some kind of accident and Hugo is left alone with his alcoholic uncle who teaches him how to tend the clocks.  He lives in the train station walls, everyday winding the clocks, making sure they serve their purpose.  He watches an old man who owns a toy shop (Ben Kingsley) and steals parts and gears from him when he is not looking, because he is trying to fix something:  an automaton his father found in a museum.  When he is caught stealing the parts he is forced to empty his pockets, but one pocket contains a notebook that belongs to Hugo, with drawings of the automaton, when the old man sees this he becomes visibly upset and takes the book from Hugo, saying he is going to burn it.  This is where the film begins it's mystery.  Unless you have read about the film, or are familiar enough with the book, you do not know who Ben Kingsley is supposed to be, in fact it isn't until later in the film you actually find out his name, his full name.  I won't tell you, because I feel that might spoil it if you don't already know.  Hugo meets with the old man's god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), who tells him she will help get his notebook back.  She also encourages Hugo to pursue this thing, because it might be an adventure.  She takes Hugo to a bookstore where the owner (Christopher Lee) allows her to borrow books.  They come across Robin Hood, Hugo says he hasn't read it but he saw the movie, Isabelle informs Hugo she has never seen a movie before.  Hugo is shocked and convinces her to come with him to the cinema, they sneak in and watch as much of Harold Lloyd's Safety Last!  as they can before being thrown out by the manager.  I loved this scene.  The look on Isabelle's face, the wonder, the sense of unbelieving, the concern for Lloyd's character as he hangs precariously from the hands of a clock high above the city street.  Scorsese captures the feeling, the magic, the dreamlike quality of film, the experience of witnessing something for the first time that is unlike anything you've ever seen.  It's remarkable and it's only the first of many other scenes to come.  There is a lot of old footage from the earliest films we have, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat by the Lumiere brothers, The Great Train Robbery by Edwin S. Porter (which influenced Scorsese's shot of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, where he points the gun at the camera) A Trip to the Moon by George Melies and so many others.  We find out Isabelle's god-father has some connection to the automaton and to the cinema, and the adventure to finding out what that connection is, is amazing.  Hugo is a good film for anyone, it's filled with humor, adventure, and even a little romance, but it's even more for film lovers.  It's such a wonderful celebration of the art and magic of film-making and the importance of film preservation.  Scorsese brings this to life with a deftness unfortunately lacking in the run-of-the-mill modern American directors.  His love of film and the preservation of film does not dominate the story here, but enforces it, bolsters it into something more than a simple movie.  He shows us that films are the place where dreams are made, and invites us to come dream with him.  He also shows just how important it is to preserve old films.  We are lucky to still have the early films we do only because of extensive searching done by lovers of the cinema.  These important films might have been lost forever, and Hugo includes this idea very prominently, but not in a way where children will find it boring.  I highly recommend this film to anyone and everyone, and I dare you not to enjoy it. (A side note:  While I'm not a big fan of 3D, viewing it more as a gimmick that takes away from the film than an actual asset, Hugo is definitely worth seeing in 3D.  Scorsese uses it as I would expect him to, with skill and care, adding greatly to the depth of the film.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for recommending this movie. It was really good. i loved the Paris location.