Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Hugo’s Lesson Pure Cinematic Magic
Posted by Courtney Small
It has become a tradition that every year I see a film in honour of my birthday. In the last few years, despite my general dislike for the format, 3D films such have Avatar and Tron Legacy have been films picked for this special day. This year’s selection, Hugo, turned out to an especially fitting choice as the film is a celebration of the magic of film.
Taking place primarily in a Paris train station in 1931, young orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the station tending to the numerous clocks. In his spare time, when he is not stealing food or avoiding the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), Hugo seeks out mechanical parts to rebuild the automaton. His father (Jude Law) was working on restoring the mechanical man before he died suddenly. Hugo believes that by fixing the automaton he will receive a special message from his father. Little does Hugo know that his new friend Isabelle (Chloe Grace Mortez), the goddaughter of a local toy merchant, Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), literally holds the key to unlocking the automaton’s secret.
Hugo, from a technical standpoint, is a marvel to behold. Unlike many 3D films today, Hugo actually feels like a film that demands to be viewed in 3D. Right from the start Scorsese offers up an exhilarating look at the capabilities of 3D technology. The scary thing is that, even with its majestic traits, it feels like Scorsese is only scratching the surface. Whether he is turning the drab train station into a clock-inspired wonderland, or using feet to symbolize the chaos and claustrophobia of the modern society, Scorsese ensure that every scene has a purpose. There is never the feeling that Scorsese is using 3D technology to merely throw things at the audience.
To be honest, Hugo’s use of 3D was even more captivating than James Cameron’s impressive use of it in Avatar. Part of this is due to the fact that Hugo’s story is far more original than Cameron’s Pocahontas inspired tale. The 3D aspect does not feel like it is compensating for the flaws in the plot. The one thing that both films have in common though is that they both lag, in regards to pacing, at points. In Hugo, this is most noticeable in section just before the true nature of the film is revealed. It is only when the film evolves completely into an ode to cinema that the pacing gets back on track.
Speaking of the latter half of Hugo, it will be curious to see how children will react to the second half of the film. After years of making gangster films and sweeping historical epics, Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s first attempt at a family friendly film. However, it is questionable how much younger viewers will get out of the film as a whole? While the first quarter of the film will play extremely well to a younger audience, the lesson in cinematic history may not necessarily grab them in the same way.
This is not to say that the historical lesson is wasted. In fact, Scorsese uses this section to express how movies have impacted his life. There is something inherently delightful in seeing a great director like Scorsese recreating iconic scenes that clearly shaped his life. If nothing else, Hugo succeeds in reminding even the most jaded adult about the important role that films play in fostering imagination. Hugo is not only an ode to cinema, but it is also proof that there is plenty of magic yet to come.