DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
May Contain Spoilers!
When I’d finished with this film, my feelings were somewhat confused. I was still trying to make sense of what I had just seen. Not that this was particularly confusing, but it was just a little unclear as to where this film had been leading for the past two hours. Billed as a fantasy film, with quotes such as “A magical masterpiece” and with a picture of Hugo Cabret hanging from a clock face, you feel that you are watching a work of fantasy but I’m not sure that this was the case at all.
The film ends up focusing on the lost career of one of cinema’s most influential directors, Georges Méliès, played expertly by Sir Ben Kingsley, and whilst some of the build up implies magic of sorts, it all comes down to some, whilst contrived, very elegant and practical means. The titular character, Hugo Cabret, is an orphan who is left in the care of his uncle, who leaves and in turn, leaves Hugo with his job of maintaining Gare Montparnasse’s train station clocks as if his uncle’s absence is revealed, Hugo will end up in an orphanage.
His is pursued by the station’s police officer, down-played somewhat from his usual roles by Sacha Baron Cohen. It’s devices like this which play so beautifully into the children’s story, and harks back to such characters peril that you would expect from the Child-catcher in Chitty Chtty Bang Bang, for example. But we are expecting more from the dangers in which Hugo faces and are left a little underwhelmed at first by its absence, but there’s more going on here that just treading out the same old clichés.
This is a proper story, focusing on character and tying in nicely with real life characters such a Méliès as well aswith the fictions ones, Hugo being the prime example. But Scorsese has worked a master stroke here, managing to bring into the broader spectrum, the work of one of the cinema’s fathers, the creator of film effects which we take for granted such as the dissolve and a magician utilising such simple tricks as cutting film at just the right place to make objects and people disappear. Obviously, his most famous work, Le Voyage Dans La Lune features heavily throughout and Scorsese’s passion for the director simply oozes out from the screen, a long with 3D effect.
But it is the 3D which elevates this film even further, as it is simply the best 3D that I have ever seen. Avatar can eat its heart out, as finally, we have a film which uses 3D to its fullest theatrical potential, using dust partials to not only emphasises the effect but to also add depth to the scene in 2D, to name just one example. The 3D was used beautifully in a film which didn’t require it, which didn’t really have any grand visual effect sequences and still managed to bring this world to life with what is essentially a gimmick.
Scorsese is visual and narrative genius and Hugo is living proof. The history of early film is laid out for all to see in a way which people of all ages can enjoy, and I think that time will favour this film, it will serve to protect the history of these early films and keep the limelight on them for just a little bit longer.