Thursday, December 22, 2011

Movie Review: Hugo

Hugo Go Gadget 

      Since the Inception of the Motion Picture, at the dawn of the 20th Century, creative endeavors have blossomed appreciably. Willed by a creative purpose, at its core both tangible and attainable, the progenitors of cinematic arts, progressively forward and vitally distinct, have spearheaded an industry of ever-changing parts: That industry is, of course, film. Movies, foremost in their design, necessitate a fervent willingness to dream, capture and effectuate that ephemeral yet instinctual spirit of imagination. Nursing this spirit, a surmountable though arduous challenge, are the generational Fore Fathers of Film: Names like Chaplin, Eisenstein, Bunuel, Lang, Renoir, Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Coppola, Fellini, Truffaut, Spielberg, Woo, Kar-wai and yes, you guessed it, Scorsese. 
      In his newest film, Hugo, Mr. Martin Scorsese, in the most reverential, honest of tones, championed the cause of homage and pastiche, and to a greater degree, inherited the power of professor. Exuding an infectious enthusiasm of film's past and a fertile curiosity of today's technological strides, Scorsese has instilled in the modern moviegoer, a delightful coalescence of past and present, signaling an enhancement of new technology, and forging a commemorative of film's past triumphs. The end result, viscerally unforgettable, will surely tug the heart strings of cinephiles across the globe; the key phrase being "cinephile," because your average, unrefined moviegoer may find such historical, futuristic interplay revolting. Marketed disingenuously as a kid's adventure film, Hugo is anything but. That "but;" however, is quite remarkable.
      Functioning mostly as a visual epistolary of personal love, Hugo embraces, with genuine affection, the routinely forgotten history of cinema. Neither an affectation of iconography nor an adrenalized display of tertiary 3-D visuals, Hugo is a rather spectacular demonstration of 3-D technology. In his rookie campaign, Scorsese, never one to shy from a bold entrance, illustrates an ingenious command of the burgeoning technology. 
      At the outset we are introduced to an impeccably-rendered 1930-era Paris: a lavish, meticulous world of complex clocks, fast-moving trains, and a twitchy Station Inspector who's accompanied by an incipient, festering romanticism and chippy dog. Reminiscent of Scorsese's early work (think Henry's "first date" with Karen in Goodfellas), an extended take establishes our journey: Twisting clocks transform into an immersive snapshot of nighttime Paris, and, Scorsese, the master of debuts, acclimates us to his visually enrapturing world, where Hugo Cabret (played confidently and with convincing sadness by Asa Butterfield), his youthful, inventive protagonist, chaperones the adventure. Lighting our torch into the dungeons of a massive train station, Scorsese dispenses a dazzling tracking shot, which transports us along the narrow platforms, and into the peeping eyes of his aforementioned Station Inspector, played brilliantly by Borat (I mean Sacha Baron Cohen). An orchestral group, a dainty flower girl, and an innocent old man dance around our eyes as we follow Hugo through the labyrinthine maze of clocks, and down a spherical slide, which leads to an establishing shot of an antique-filled toy shop, whose mysterious owner (played beautifully with vigorous range by Ben Kingsley), wears a quizzical, accusatory tone of attire. Essentially, Boy Meets Old Man: Hugo stealthily confronts the old shopkeeper, accidentally breaking his miniaturized toy mouse, and, after a stern reprimand, is forced to relinquish his most cherished possessions: various machine-like trinkets and his book of drawings. Altogether, our commencement into Hugo's world is a wordless, visually and emotionally resonant, prelude; Scorsese, harnessing the power of imagination and wielding a certain visual poetry, indoctrinates us into his dream-like world of magic and inspiration. And the Inception, feeling remiss if I didn't highlight it, is magnificent. Make no mistake: Hugo is the pinnacle of 3-D.

      Hugo is imperfect. It is not an honest representation of a kid's movie. Instead, it functions more judiciously as a mature, adult-oriented viewing experience. A child's sensibilities—the unfortunate target of the misguided marketing machine—will be left unfulfilled. Some kids may find the proceedings dull, uneventful, and dare I say it, sleep-inducing. But, as I was once a youngster myself, I believe firmly there are kids who will thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the instructive, visually robust machinations of Scorsese's mise-en-scène.  
      Hugo succeeds most auspiciously as a fairy tale for discerning minds. Since I can speak only for myself, the thematic content—technological advancement and film class-style lessons on special effects and silent film—did engage me emotionally. Furthermore, the universal underpinnings of the human condition—coping with loss, seeking redemption, striving for meaning—that proliferated Scorsese's incisive fable did strike a profound emotional chord. Marty's marvelous use of 3-D simply enhanced this emotional through-line. Through a technical ingenuity, consisting of shrewd depth of field and deep focus, Mr. Scorsese framed numerous shots that, it is fair to say, were flawless. One particularly noteworthy shot was the recreation of the famous Lumiere Brothers' train sequence, The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station. This scene, recycled a few times in the film for dramatic effect, demonstrated the exciting features of proper 3-D use, features which are germane to our sensory acceptance of three-dimensional images: The idea of fostering movement and engendering in the audience, a spontaneous, awe-inspired reaction. A two-word phrase that tarnished the legacy of our 43rd President, Mission Accomplished, Mr. Scorsese, befits your aspirations perfectly. 
      Ultimately, Hugo is a celebration of the timeless, peerless movie image. The personal themes, which affected Scorsese so dearly, reaffirmed my immense love of cinema, and Marty's technical mastery, on display when Rene Tabard handcranked the projection as if summoned by Inspector Gadget, imbued me with an unmistakable, palpable sense of amazement.

9.5 out of 10


  1. Nice review, seems to be a watchable movie.

  2. Terrific review, Mr. V! I'm looking forward to seeing this one!

  3. Sounds fantastic! Wishing you a very happy Christmas!!!

  4. Spent Christmas Eve at the theater watching Hugo. Truly magical!

  5. Terrific review as always. I love Scorsese and really would like to see this so I hope this available in 2D because I hate 3D. First, it makes me sick. I get really bad headaches and feel like I'm going to toss my popcorn and sugar-free dots. Second, I have never seen the point of 3D. It's a movie. I don't want to go "into" the story, I just want it presented in front of me. And finally, as if theaters don't screw us over enough, we have to pay EXTRA for those stupid glasses which never fit properly over mine anyway.

    And now I've gone into a huge rant, which I never intended. Me and my big mouth. Sorry!

  6. This is simply an amazing review!! It actually has me wanting to see this now and in theaters. Scorsese directing was originally my only motive to see this but now I realize it does provide much more. Hopefully it's still in theaters where I live.