Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Hugo: A timely jewel 

***1/2

HUGO
***1/2
DIRECTED BY Martin Scorsese
STARS Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield

YOU CAN DO MAGIC: Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) shows Hugo (Asa Butterfield) the tricks of the trade in Hugo. (Photo: Paramount)
  • YOU CAN DO MAGIC: Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) shows Hugo (Asa Butterfield) the tricks of the trade in Hugo. (Photo: Paramount)

Movie mavens startled by the fact that Martin Scorsese has elected to direct a family film when he's exalted for his string of hardcore crime flicks clearly know little about either the man or his achievements. Scorsese has hopscotched between genres far more often than he's given credit for — the costume drama The Age of Innocence, the religious epic The Last Temptation of Christ and the black comedy After Hours represent just a sampling of his various works — and when he's not helming motion pictures, he's often championing the cause of film preservation. Scorsese has always been a student of film as much as a teacher and practitioner — how I love to hear him passionately discuss classics of cinema! — and with Hugo, he manages to incorporate all facets of his resume.

Even more so than The Aviator, Scorsese's accomplished biopic about millionaire and part-time moviemaker Howard Hughes, this adaptation of Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a product steeped in cinema lore, drunk on the fumes of a bygone era yet canny enough to channel its nostalgia through modern innovations. Hugo is available in 3-D, and except for the annoying darkness that's always inherent in live-action films presented in this manner, it makes glorious use of the gimmick, right from the very first shot when falling snowflakes come right at us.

Set in a Parisian train station in the 1930s, the story concerns itself with young Hugo (Asa Butterfield), a parentless child who tends to the building's giant clock while constantly avoiding the grasp of an inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) hellbent on sending him off to an orphanage. Connected to his late father (Jude Law in a small role) by an automaton that needs repairing, Hugo steals the parts needed from an elderly man named Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who runs a toy store in the station. Eventually caught by the ill-tempered gent, Hugo becomes drawn into his life, befriending his ward Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz, of Kick-Ass/Hit Girl fame), learning about his past as a film pioneer, and discovering the key — literally — that binds past and present together.

In the name of full disclosure, I've been a huge fan of Georges Méliès (who, among other things, invented special effects and built Europe's first movie studio) since I was a teenager, so any movie that celebrates his legacy as competently and gloriously as this one does is already halfway to home plate. But Scorsese hasn't merely made an ode to cineasts; rather, his picture is a moving exploration of the manner in which individuals seek out love and companionship in an effort to form their own version of a nuclear family (every character, even Cohen's bumbling inspector, wages a war against loneliness). That's not to say the cinematic homages are ever placed on the back burner: A clip from the great Harold Lloyd's most famous film, Safety Last, serves as foreshadowing for a climactic moment, and Méliès' own masterpiece, A Trip to the Moon, is given its proper due.

Even with a friendly PG rating, it's hard to imagine families trudging out en masse to check this out: The 125-minute running time, leisurely pace and lack of Muppets will probably cause many tots to grow fidgety before long, and even adults who desire their entertainment fast and furious will wonder if it's too late to sneak into the adjacent auditorium that's playing Immortals. But for the rest of us, we'll always have Paris — and the enchanting movie set therein.

Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

Readers also liked…

Search Events

Recent Comments

© 2017 Womack Newspapers, Inc.
Powered by Foundation