Sometimes the best way to gear yourself up for a film is to know absolutely nothing about it. Trusting your instinct is much better than letting biased critiques influence how you are going to view a film. This is precisely what occurred when I went to see Martin Scorsese’s newest film Hugo. It exceeded all of my non-existent expectations and replaced them with a glowing smile that could not be erased from my face. What a masterpiece.
For someone like myself who absolutely despises the new 3D phenomenon that has hit the industry, I had complete faith in Scorsese’s ability to take this technology and not abuse its profitability. This is his first feature using this digital technology and it definitely does not disappoint. It enhances the beautiful magical reality he creates and you do not question why you are wearing those uncomfortable glasses.
Based on Brian Selznick’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” this cinematic adventure drama hits all the right notes. Though it starts off a little slow, leaving the audience questioning the direction it will take (if any), it quickly picks up and takes you on the most ingeniously charming ride. After the death of his father, the protagonist, Hugo (Asa Butterfield), is resides in the Montparnasse train station in Paris, France where he winds the clocks. It is in this station where the motifs of the trains, clocks, movies, keys, restoring, and figuring out one’s purpose unfold. It is incredible how all of these things weave together among each encounter and relationship that Hugo builds. It is upon his meeting with the young Isabelle where his journey makes an exciting leap from simply trying to fix the Automaton that he and his father were trying to fix to a heart-shaped key unlocking the past and reviving the present.
Isabelle (Chloe Grace Mortez) is the god-daughter of Papa Georges, played by Ben Kingsley, who I must say is quite the chameleon. He is a seemingly simple old and bitter man who owns a toy shop in the station and from whom Hugo is constantly stealing small metal parts with the hope of fixing his Automaton. It is later revealed that Papa Georges is in fact the groundbreaking and innovating director, George Méliès, the father of early special effects. For film buffs such as myself, this twist truly aroused my inner geek and had me completely captivated. What shocked me more was researching Méliès after the film and affirming that Scorsese did not make up his working at a toy shop in the train station, or the fact that most of his film stock was melted down to create the heels of women’s shoes. This authenticity made my love for this film deeper than if it was purely imagination. How superb that this was fact!
For me, Méliès was and still is an inspiration to filmmaking and a pivotal player in many of its advancements, in terms of narrative and technology. He was the first director who saw the possibilities of this medium to depict a story after seeing the Lumière Brother’s “Arrival of a Train at a Station.” Where they say cinema as an art form with a limited life expectancy, Méliès believed differently and thus proceeded to shape our understanding of film. This is self-reflexive of Scorsese in that he too is influenced by Méliès and shares his passion for this incredible art form, firmly believing that he somehow had to be a part of it, no matter what. Scorsese also made a lovely cameo in his film, where he is a photographer taking a picture of Méliès and his wife. This can be read as him documenting his idol and reviving his influence for the generations of viewers who had no idea who this man was or what he did for film as an art form. Another aspect of this film that was awe-inspiring was the fact that not only is the audience permitted to see the newest Scorsese film in 3D, but we also get to watch an enchanting montage of Méliès salvaged work from 1899 to 1913 in this third dimension. With the trend of old films being re-released in 3D, Scorsese jumped the gun and went back a hundred years showing the benefits of technology and their ability to revive not only the newest blockbusters, but old hand painted individual frames by a man who would have adored everything digital technology has to offer.
This film is by far the best one I have seen this year and I could go on forever dissecting and analyzing the sizeable web that is weaved with the motifs I mentioned above, however I really insist on you spending your twelve dollars and experiencing this pièce de résistance first-hand, no biases and no mind tricks. Just know that though Scorsese stepped out of his traditional genre of gritty drama, he somehow managed to create an enchanting children’s story that surpasses your expectations and has you grinning from ear-to-ear.