Last night, a friend sent me an SMS saying how he absolutely, absolutely adored ‘Hugo’, the new Martin Scorsese film. He loved everything about it, the story, the Oscar-winning photography, the background score, the film’s tribute to early cinema, everything. You don’t doubt it, ‘Hugo’ is one of the best pictures released last year. (By the way, he is the same guy who is still celebrating Maryl Streep’s third Oscar, and went to see ‘The Iron Lady’ first day first show at a local theatre, and absolutely loved Maryl’s transformation, to the last assonance of Ms Streep’s British received pronunciation.)
I loved ‘Hugo’ too. But perhaps I would have loved it better if someone else other than Scorsese directed it. The film deals with a number of the director’s pet concerns — film preservation, and a genuine love for cinema, and this is a film where a well regarded master of modern American cinema takes the latest craze of 3D head on and emerges a winner. All these are fantastic, but Martin Scorsese? Really?
Another thing I had a problem with is the dialogues, the characters speaking bombastic English while in France. The books they read are in French, but they speak English, in bombast, using jaw-breaking words. I can understand Isabell using such words as doltish, she’s a bookworm, but a station inspector using them?
But, you have to admire the film for introducing pioneering French master of early cinema, Georges Melies, to the younger audience. And Ben Kingsley plays him with a quiet dignity.
Writes Roger Ebert:
Leave it to Scorsese to make his first 3-D movie about the man who invented special effects. There is a parallel with the asthmatic Scorsese, living in Little Italy but not of it, observing life from the windows of his apartment, soaking up the cinema from television and local theaters, adopting great directors as his mentors, and in the case of Michael Powell, rescuing their careers after years of neglect.
The way "Hugo" deals with Melies is enchanting in itself, but the film's first half is devoted to the escapades of its young hero. In the way the film uses CGI and other techniques to create the train station and the city, the movie is breathtaking. The opening shot swoops above the vast cityscape of Paris and ends with Hugo (Asa Butterfield) peering out of an opening in a clock face far above the station floor. We follow his Dickensian adventures as he stays one step ahead of the choleric Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), in chase sequences through crowds of travelers. Hugo always manages to escape back to his refuge behind the walls and above the ceiling of the station.