In the Picture
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese has made a wonderfully bold move in his latest movie Hugo. Regarded as one of cinema's greatest directors, Scorsese is best known for his dramatic movies such as Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed and The Aviator, but he also directed the period romance The Age of Innocence plus music documentaries on The Band, The Rolling Stones and George Harrison.
Scorsese has a passion for cinema which has seen him establish both the Film Foundation and the World Cinema Foundation, which are non-profit organisations dedicated to the restoration and preservation of films. Hugo is very much an ode to the wonders of classic cinema and great filmmakers, and film preservation is actually a pivotal point in the movie's plot.
Hugo is a film for all ages unlike the two supposedly family friendly Spielberg flicks Tintin and War Horse. Based on Brian Selznick's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the movie is Scorsese's first venture into 3D and he sets an incredible standard in using the technique.
The film is visually stunning from the first moment as the camera soars down onto a clockwork-like 1930 Paris and sweeps into a railway station and up towards a giant clock where we find Hugo (Asa Butterfield) looking out from inside the face of the clock. Hugo, a wily and resourceful boy, lives between the walls of the station. His mother is dead, his master clockmaker father (Jude Law) has died in a museum fire, and his alcoholic uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), responsible for maintaining the clocks at the station, has disappeared. Hugo repairs and winds the station clocks, steals food and tries to repair a mysterious broken automaton which is all that is left of his father.
In his quest to repair the toy robot Hugo befriends Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) who is the goddaughter of Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley) who runs a toy shop at the station. Georges turns out to be George Melies, the forgotten innovator and filmmaker best known for his incredible 1902 short film A Trip to the Moon.
The story of Melies is long overdue, and Scorsese has woven it into this magical movie. The genius filmmaker was bankrupted and near destitute by 1914 and many of his films were melted down for cellulose. Melies, who started out as a magician and theatre owner, spent his later years as a toymaker running the small station shop at Montparnasse.
Hugo is both a nostalgic and a contemporary film which also has historical comment. It is extravagant and elegant, and Scorsese's use of 3D is dazzling. It is a wonderful must-see movie about the role of art and imagination.