MOVIE REVIEW: “HUGO” (3D). DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE. WRITTEN BY JOHN LOGAN BASED ON THE BOOK THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET BY BRIAN SELZNICK. STARRING SIR BEN KINGSLEY, ASA BUTTERFIELD, CHLOË GRACE MORETZ , CHRISTOPHER LEE, SACHA BARON COHEN, EMILY MORTIMER, HELEN MCCRORY, MICHAEL STUHLBARG, RAY WINSTONE AND JUDE LAW. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY ROBERT RICHARDSON.
Golden Globe recipient MARTIN SCORSESE’S “HUGO”, goes far beyond the story of young Hugo Cabret, portrayed brilliantly and heartfelt by ASA BUTTERFIELD (The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas) and French pioneer film maker Georges Méliès, played with equally striking depth by SIR BEN KINGSLEY, but also speaks to what cinema used to be, and, to some degree of what they still are for the most part: magic, wonder, awe, adventure, and most importantly story telling.
“HUGO” tells the story of the orphan Hugo Cabret who secretly lives in the Paris train station maintaining all the clocks while he tries to repair an automaton his late father (JUDE LAW), a watch and clock maker, discovered abandoned in the attic of a museum. The sophisticated device, unlike any Hugo’s father had seen before, was designed to write.
After the death of his father Hugo is taken in by his drunkard of an uncle Claude (RAY WINSTONE) who maintains the clocks in the Paris train station. The rusted and neglected automaton is one of two of Hugo’s possessions and links to his father who also passed down his passion and talent for fixing things, as well as surviving and eluding the train station agent (SACHA BARON COHEN).
In his attempt to repair the automaton, Hugo is forced to steal clockwork parts and tools, including stealing and being caught by a sad, embittered and forgotten Méliès who runs a toy concession in the train station. Upon catching Hugo, Méliès forces the boy to empty his pockets, discovering Hugo’s father’s notebook. The notebook contains notes, sketches, and even a “flip book” animation of the automaton. Méliès is enraged when he discovers the notebook, claiming it’s his, confiscating it and telling Hugo he intends to burn it.
Hugo is terrified by the thought of losing his most prized connection to his father, but relinquishes the notebook. But he later learns from Méliès’ enchanting Goddaughter Isabelle (CHLOË GRACE MORETZ), who is an avid reader and budding adventuress, that “Papa Georges” still has Hugo’s notebook, which caused him great grief. Eventually Hugo and Méliès make a pact: Hugo will work in the concession until he “works off” what he stole and perhaps Méliès will return the notebook.
And therein lies the mystery that is part of the heart of the film. Hugo is seeking to repair the automaton for he believes his father left him a secret message. What the automaton reveals leads Hugo and Isabelle to the mystery of Papa Georges. The mystery of Papa Georges leads them to the magic, wonder, awe, and adventure of the early days of cinema and the pioneering filmmaker of Georges Méliès.
ROBERT RICHARSON’s cinematography brings vibrant and vivid life to DANTE FARETTI’s production design to both the reality of Hugo’s world as well as the world of fantasy created by Méliès. The 3D brings equal beauty and depth to these worlds and well worth the higher ticket price.
Before the advent of the blockbuster, early cinema were simple films of scenes of everyday life until film makers figured out they could tell stories as Thomas Edison did with “The Great Train Robbery” in the United States, William Friese-Greene in England, and Louis and Antione Lumiere in France.
And then there was Georges Méliès, a successful and prosperous stage magician, and his wife-assistant Jeanne (HELEN MCCRORY) who inadvertently discovered the then novel medium of the Lumiere Cinematographe. Méliès gambled everything he owned to build his studio and created new magic in the medium with his astounding special effects.
In the film, after World War I, he felt the men returning home had seen such brutal reality; his innovative, fanciful films would go unappreciated. In despair he burned all of his sets and costumes and left the studio to fall into ruin.
Méliès produced 500 films and is regarded as "The Father of Special Effects” developing techniques as stop-motion photography, the use of fade in and fade out, was the first film maker to use production sketches and storyboards, all still in use to this day, and was eventually awarded the Legion of Honor in 1931.
Many critics have called “HUGO” Scorsese’s love letter to cinema, which it is but also a continuing crusade for the importance to film restoration and preservation. Cinema is an art form unlike any other, for no matter who is behind the camera directing, hundreds of artisans, from prop and wardrobe designers, set builders, painters, grips, gaffers, production designers and art directors, special effects and make-up personnel, writers, stunt people, background actors, supporting players, and “The Stars” are all equally important to make the audience’s experience “real” in the cinema worlds they inhabit.
FozziFilm Scale 5 out of 5.