Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Scorcese Magic Absent In Family Fantasy

 Here is another article from my local newspaper on Martin Scorsese's latest film Hugo. It isn't to be release until the 12th January here in NZ and to be honest it hasn't piqued my attention at all. What has got me though is that this article flys in the face of of the films 8.7/10 rating at IMDB. I suspect that it is just because it is new to audiences and over time it will drop as it becomes more familiar to viewers. But none the less this is a Martin Scorsese film and the reactions it has gathered are of interest to those who haven't seen it yet. Anyway on with the article!

 A founding legend of cinema has it that audiences jumped out of their seats in alarm when the LumiEre brothers first screened their 1895 film of a train arriving in a station. Cinema has been trying to get a comparable rise out of us ever since. Today, the method generally considered the fast track to big screen rapture is 3-D. Egregious overuse in the last two years has left us jaded about the possibilities - but you'd hope that, if anyone could do something special with it, it would be Martin Scorsese.

 Alas, the maestro's Hugo affords little real awe, which is particularly bitter, given that the film insistently tells us - often in so many words - that wonder, enchantment, dream are the very stuff of cinema. It's surprising to find Scorsese making 3-D family entertainment, but it's not that he's yielded to the rule of the impersonal blockbuster. For behind this whimsical tale of a waif in 1930's Paris, there lies a hidden agenda very close to the director's heart. Hugo is essentially a well-intentioned lantern lecture on the glories of silent cinema and the importance of film preservation.

 Young orphan Hugo Cabret ( Asa Butterfield ) lives in the maze of corridors and staircases behind the walls of the old Gare Montparnasse. There he makes two enemies  -  a cantankerous old toy vendor ( Ben Kingsley ) and the station inspector ( Sacha Baron Cohen ), a liveried martinet with a mechanical leg and attendant doberman. A spoiler warning is probably unnecessary, as many people will know the payoff from Brian Selznick's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a singular combination of text and intricate drawings. Together with the toy seller's goddaughter Isabelle ( Chloe Grace Moritz ), Hugo restores a mysterious automation and follows a trail that leads to one of cinema's greatest innovators, Georges Melies ( 1861 - 1938 ).

 A stage magician turned master of screen trompe I'oeil, Melies invented fantasy cinema - you could call his glass - walled studio the original DreamWorks. The best thing in Hugo is its evocation of Melies at work : in a shot that alone justifies the use of 3-D, technicians drop lobsters into a tank to evoke as underwater kingdom. The film's bottom line is its espousal of silent cinema : if any child emerges desperate to discover Buster Keaton, or search their grandparents' attic for long lost nitrate footage, Scorsese can count his job well done. But Hugo comes off badly by comparison with the golden oldies it celebrates.

 Overall Hugo is a sumptuous dud. In the railway station, Scorsese and team - including Robert Richardson and designer Dante Ferretti - have created a labyrinthine wonder, sometimes including authentic architectural vertigo .But the plot is a thin support for the film history class. Much of the station business consists of Hugo being chased through milling crowds, to laborious slapstick effect, by the vengeful inspector.

 What say you?

 I personally agree with the articles sentiment on the over use of 3-D in cinema today. I've been saying it for months but I know I'm not alone in thinking 3-D over used and over rated. I think most professional film critics and buffs feel the same way. It will be interesting over time to see where Hugo leads in cinema goers memories. At the moment it seems to be generating favourable reports and yet as this article shows not everyone is impressed. Just on what I have seen and read alone  it is a film that I suspect will not overly impress me.


  1. That is literally the first negative review I've seen.

    I'll admit that I totally dismissed this film when I saw the trailers, all the positive word of mouth has made me wonder if I'm missing anything.

    Not sure if I'll work up the resolve to go see with so many other choices out there.

    On a side note, I've heard the 3-D here is very impressive.

  2. Yeah I've only read positive things as well. But as in all cases not all films are to everyone's taste. To be honest something about it doesn't build any anticipation in me. If I saw it I'd probably be in the minority of not liking it!

  3. I know what you mean. As much positive stuff as I've read its still getting hard for me to make the effort.