Scorsese's Hugo

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Scorsese's Hugo

Post  eddie on Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:40 am

Hugo – review

Martin Scorsese leaves his mean streets behind for this exhilarating family tale inspired by the birth of cinema

Philip French

The Observer, Sunday 4 December 2011


Asa Butterfield as the eponymous 'crafty Dickensian orphan' in Hugo.

The families we most associate with Martin Scorsese are the five criminal ones that make up the mafia in the United States, and both they and Scorsese's films deal in violence involving pain and death. His new film, however, aims to entrance every member of every family, and it centres on the great art form that over the past century became the great family entertainment: the cinema. A dramatic pursuit many see as essentially violent and once described by the art theorist Herbert Read as "a chisel of light cutting into the reality of objects", it is created with a demand for "Action!" and ends with the order "Cut!". Based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a beautiful book, half graphic novel, half prose tale, by Brian Selznick, the movie is a delightful fable. Its various subjects include magic, tradition, respect for the past and affection between generations, all bound up in the history of the cinema and the machinery invented to capture images on strips of film and project them on screens.

Hugo
Production year: 2011
Countries: France, USA
Cert (UK): U
Runtime: 126 mins
Directors: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Frances de la Tour, Helen McCrory, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sir Ben Kingsley
More on this film

Hugo is set in Paris in 1931 and begins with a breathtaking shot of the city, as the camera swoops down on to a busy railway station. It flies along a narrow platform between two steam trains, crosses a busy concourse and ends up on the 12-year-old Hugo, who is peering at the world from behind the figure "4" of a giant clock. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) has inherited a love of tinkering with machinery from his late father, and has quite recently taken over the job of superintending the station's clocks from his drunken uncle. The boy lives in the hidden tunnels and passageways of the building, where he's repairing a 19th-century automaton. He's a crafty Dickensian orphan, a benign phantom of the opera, a blood brother of Quasimodo, a cinematic voyeur looking out on the world like the photographer in Hitchcock's Rear Window. Fate has brought him there, and it then draws him into the orbit of a querulous old man, Georges (Ben Kingsley), who runs an old-fashioned shop on the station selling toys and doing mechanical repairs, assisted by his 12-year-old god-daughter, Isabelle. Hugo becomes involved with the old man when he's accused of theft and has a cherished book of drawings confiscated. He is then assisted by Isabelle in retrieving the book, and in turn, when he discovers she's forbidden to go to the movies, he takes her on a great "adventure", a visit to the lost world of silent movies at a season of old films. She is overwhelmed.

The literate Isabelle is a great admirer of Dickens, and a succession of clever Dickensian twists ensue as the labyrinthine plot takes the pair on a journey into a mysterious past. They discover the origins of the movies in the late-19th-century careers of the Lumière brothers, who put on the first picture show in Paris in 1895, and Georges Méliès, the professional magician, who became obsessed after attending this historical screening. The Lumières photographed the world as it was and didn't believe the cinema had a future. Méliès turned his theatre into a picture palace, built his own studio and became a prolific producer of fantasy films that merged life and dream, before his business tragically collapsed and he disappeared into obscurity.

In following the example of his early hero, John Cassavetes, in making naturalistic pictures, Scorsese set out on the route pioneered by the Lumière brothers, but from time to time slipped into the parallel path taken by Méliès as, for instance, in New York, New York. Now, with this celebration of magic and the imaginative use of 3D, he is saluting what many will see as an alternative kind of cinema to his own. But Scorsese has always been fascinated by the all-involving experience of moviegoing and has a knowledge of and affection for film history matched by few directors of his generation. Since the 1970s he has used his influence and his money to campaign for the restoration and preservation of films.

Hugo is a moving, funny and exhilarating film, an imaginative history lesson in the form of a detective story. The film is a great defence of the cinema as a dream world, a complementary, countervailing, transformative force to the brutalising reality we see all around us. It rejects the sneers of those intellectuals and moralisers who see in film a debilitating escapism of the sort the social anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker impugned by calling her study of the movie industry Hollywood: The Dream Factory. As a commentary on this, Hugo at one point has a double dream, waking from one into the other, both of them forms of nightmares connected to the cinema.

Appropriately for a medium initially launched in France (where it is still taken more seriously than anywhere else) but developed almost simultaneously in a variety of countries, Hugo is an international movie with a wonderfully gifted team behind it. The photographer (Robert Richardson), editor (Thelma Schoonmaker) and screenwriter (John Logan) are American, the production designer (Dante Ferretti) Italian, the costume designer (Sandy Powell) and the cast British (except for the delightful young American Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle), and it was made in this country.

Georges Méliès, the ultimate hero of the film, became a magician while working in London and returned there to buy his first projector. One of the movie's endless felicitous touches occurs during a whirlwind chase, when Hugo is pursued by the vindictive station inspector through the crowded concourse. The camera briefly alights on a startled James Joyce, then a resident of Paris, who had returned in 1909 to Dublin to open the city's first purpose-built cinema, the Volta. Appropriately its premiere kicked off with a short called The First Paris Orphanage. At the time Hugo is set, Joyce was writing Finnegans Wake, a novel in the form of a dream in which he refers to the Marx brothers.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: Scorsese's Hugo

Post  eddie on Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:46 am

Hugo – review

Martin Scorsese's family friendly fantasy is a cinephile's delight: a beautifully designed homage to the power of the first film-makers

Peter Bradshaw

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 December 2011 12.29 GMT


Hang time ... Hugo

"I would recognise the sound of a movie projector anywhere!" says one of cinema's greatest pioneers, hearing that mechanical, sprockety whirr. It's a climactic moment in Martin Scorsese's new film: a family fantasy adventure in 3D which turns out to be a hi-tech magic lantern presentation on the wonder of early cinema, and its origins in the world of clockwork craftsmanship: toys, games, illusions.

Hugo
Production year: 2011
Countries: France, USA
Cert (UK): U
Runtime: 126 mins
Directors: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Frances de la Tour, Helen McCrory, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sir Ben Kingsley
More on this film

Hugo is pitched as much to cinephile adults as children, and insists, in a fervent if rather pedagogic way, on that magical quality of cinema which children and grownups generally feel without needing to be told. This is a spectacular and gorgeously created film, with allusions to Harold Lloyd and Fritz Lang, and it's an almost overwhelming assault on the senses from the very first shot: a vision of post-first-world-war Paris which sees the city as one gigantic clockwork contrivance. We are then treated to a terrific camera move, whooshing into a crowded railway station where the action is to commence, and where the audience will feel like rubbernecking in awe at a cathedral of digital detail. Here is where a young boy called Hugo (Asa Butterfield) hides in the station's secret passages and recesses, winding all the station clocks himself: supposedly the job of his drunkard uncle and guardian (Ray Winstone), who has long since vanished.

Hugo has more secrets: he is trying to repair and restore a remarkable automaton which had come into the possession of his late father (Jude Law), a kindly watchmaker. But without Hugo quite realising it, this robot hides within its workings the secret of the 20th century's great new art form. Young Hugo is to come into contact with Isabelle (Chloë Moretz) and her formidable old grandpa, who runs a toy stall on the station platform: he is, in fact, M Georges Méliès, the great film-maker and innovator, now fallen on hard times. Ben Kingsley plays Méliès, and gives him the melancholy air of a deposed and exiled king, or at any rate someone who has been marginalised by great historical forces which he himself has brought into being: a little like Robert Donat's William Friese-Greene, the British cinema pioneer, in John Boulting's 1951 film The Magic Box. The illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, on which this movie is based, was inspired by the nonfiction study Edison's Eve, by British author Gaby Wood, which discussed Méliès's lost collection of automata.

The movie's opening act makes it actually look more like Spielberg than Scorsese, especially in the appearance of the villain, the station inspector, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, as a moustachioed martinet and stickler for station rules who vows to track down that little urchin Hugo. The inspector has, crucially, a sinister distinguishing feature: a metal clasp around his leg where he was injured in the Great War. Homing in on that feature looks like a Spielbergian tic – but then it becomes something else, a poignant mark of vulnerability and humanity, especially as this mechanism becomes positive, associated with the creativity and ingenuity of Hugo's robot and Méliès's secret career.

The quietly spoken, self-possessed old man reveals himself to be a great imaginative artist, and creator of the legendary adventure A Trip to the Moon. He was first a magician, and early adopter of the cinematograph when he saw the Lumière brothers' legendary 50-second film showing the arrival of a train at Ciotat station. (Here, incidentally, the film playfully repeats the apocryphal story of the audience fleeing from the train in panic. Scorsese's use of 3D for this movie is a clue that he is well aware of film historians' consensus that this tale is likely to have grown from the audience gasping and jumping when the Ciotat film was re-shown in the 1930s in stereoscopic 3D.)

It is when Isabelle and Hugo discover that the point of the story is the movies themselves that this film becomes at once so much more, and yet ever so slightly less, than a story about a homeless frightened boy and the mysterious toy robot which is all that he has left of his dad. Discovering and repairing old automata becomes a fable for film restoration and film history (of course, a great passion of Scorsese's), and the tensions between everyone involved are dissolved in universal reverence for this historical rediscovery of Méliès's genius. And of course, no red-blooded cinema lover could fail to sigh happily at these events, but this is in some ways an earnest and temperamentally conservative film, and I sometimes got the strange feeling that it was something that a really nice teacher might show in the runup to the Christmas holidays.

For all that, it's a deeply felt piece of work, something which only Scorsese could have brought to the screen, which finds a key point when Hugo must use a heart-shaped key to operate his automaton. The heart – that mediator between the head and the hands – is an image which points to the movies as a ghost in the machine: the technology, mass-production and grinding commerce which exploded in the 20th century would also facilitate the growth and vitality of the cinema itself.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum