Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hugo (2011)

Title: Hugo (2011)

Director: Martin Scorcese

Cast: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, , Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer


Georges Melies was a genius back in his day; the guy was not only an accomplished illusionist, he was also one of the first film directors to use special effects in films. He is the filmmaker responsible for such important films as The Impossible Voyage (1904) and A Trip to the Moon (1902), the short film in which men travel to the moon on a bullet like rocket, and land on the moons eye. His films where filled with wizards, mermaids and adventurers; he was one of the first filmmakers to fall in love with the childlike wonderment of illusion and magic. He is also the focus of Martin Scorcese’s latest masterpiece, Hugo. And yeah, that’s right I used the ‘m’ word which is a status I reserve for those movies that are works of art, films that I enjoyed on every level, films that really ‘get to me’. Hugo was made by an extremely experienced director fully in control of the filmmaking tools at his disposal, ladies and gentlemen I speak of course of the great Martin Scorcese; who like the best filmmakers of the world, continues making amazing films even through his old age, and thank the film gods for that! Hugo is a beautiful film!

Hugo tells the tale of one Hugo Cabret, an orphan who’s really had a difficult time in life. He lives behind the giant clocks on a train station in France. No one knows that it’s a child that gives maintenance to the clocks on the train station, but it's Hugo behind it. When he isnt fixing clocks, he's working on a mechanical toy called an ‘automaton’. This automaton was a toy that he inherited from his father, when he died. Unfortunately,  Hugo's dad  never really finished working on it, and so, he never got it to work properly. It can write words on paper, and so Hugo believes that if he finishes fixing it, that it will write him a message from his dead father. Will Hugo ever discover the automaton’s message?

As you can see, Hugo is a film about an orphan, living on his own in the world, trying to survive as best as he can. The premise of the film brings to mind similar films like Oliver (1968) and Annie (1982);  you know films about kids who’s parents have died and have to either be brought up by the government in an orphanage or live on the streets, eating whatever food they can steal; scurrying through the city, running away from authority figures. Hugo is also one of those films that is about film itself.; it focuses a lot of its running time on the life of French filmmaker Georges Melies. In this way, by exploring the life of Melies, Martin Scorcese takes the opportunity to explore the nature of films and why we love them so much. Hugo is a film that is about cinema and the whole creative process behind making films. It’s about how much fun is had making a movie and the joy of having others see, enjoy and remember your work. It’s about why we enjoy going to the movies, why it’s our great escape. Why films are the stuff that dreams are made of, which is why it brought to mind an Italian film called Cinema Paradiso (1988) a film about a little kid who works in a movie theater, and falls in love with films so much that he eventually becomes a famous director. He also befriends and older man, same as in Hugo. By the way I highly recommend Cinema Paradiso to all film lovers out there, if you haven’t seen it, do yourselves a favor!  

Hugo is a very layered film, it’s not simplistic. Aside from commenting on all the things mentioned, it is also a film that speaks about humanity and how we are each essential parts of a big machine, the world. And how we all serve a purpose in this world; all we need to do is discover what that purpose is. If we don’t, we remain broken, incomplete. It’s a film that instills hope in ones heart to achieve our goals, and become everything we always wanted to become. One awesome moment has Hugo looking directly at the automaton and saying that the robot is waiting “to do what he came to do”, in this way Scorcese urges us to do the same. I love films like Hugo; family films that don’t  treat you or the children watching it like idiots. The themes Hugo addresses are relevant and important, it does a good job of placing beautiful and important ideas out there in the world and in childrens minds. And that’s really the best thing a director can do, use his story telling abilities to spread positive, life changing ideas out there in the world through their films. Scorcese is a filmmaker that's had his time in this world, and the film has that weight of a filmmaker who knows about life and so it’s not a film with paper thin themes, this is a film with something to say, a film filled with ideas picked up through a life time of experiences. I mean, the whole film is about trying to fix a toy robot that looks like a man, and what we need to fix is his heart. Hugo needs to fix the internal machinery of the automaton and find the key that will get it to work properly. “It isn’t going to be easy” one character says, but it can be done! Hugo is a film filled with hope for humanity and the idea that man can improve and become something better, that we can change, that we can evolve.

At one moment in the film, Isabelle (the girl who befriends Hugo) takes him to a bookstore. When she sees that he is not as excited as she is to be there she asks him “Don’t you LIKE books?” In this way, Scorcese takes the opportunity to praise the greatness of books, and the value he has for them. I love this about the film because in today’s IPad and IPhone filled world, where people aren’t even holding real books in their hands anymore, I appreciated the fact that Hugo was about enjoying going into a book store or library and searching for that perfect book to read, possibly with a loved one before going to bed. The kids in this film have questions about something and together, they go into this giant library, looking at books with wonderment in their eyes. Kudos to Scorcese for putting these ideas across, in my opinion, the importance of the printed word should not be taken for granted and this movie does a good job of placing an emphasis on this.

The visuals are nothing short of amazing, every scene is jam packed with details and color. It’s one of those films where France looks magical and vivid! Some scenes reminded me of a Fellini film, with its buoyant streets filled with life, love, food and music. And speaking of the visuals, Scorcese really took advantage of 3-D on this one; this is one of those films best experienced on 3-D, this is in my opinion some of the best 3-D I’ve seen since Cameron’s Avatar (2009), there is some real depth to these images, at times you really feel as if you’re walking through all those giant gears. You’ll feel like Charlie Chaplin rolling through the machinery in Modern Times (1936).  This is a film that uses 3-D the way it's meant to be used. I’ve already seen Hugo twice in theaters because number one, I loved it and I felt the need to take in these beautiful visuals and moving story one more time, and two, because I wanted to share this film with someone I loved, which is the same you should do.

Rating: 5 out of  5

2 comments: said...

Thats one of the better reviews of Hugo I have read. I must admit that I was not a big fan of this film. It seemed very long and the pacing was difficlult for me to widthstand. I think this film could of used some critical editing. What did you think of that automaton as a MacGuffin? I was expecting a bit more excitement with the reveal.

Franco Macabro said...

The automaton as a McGuffin...I think it was brilliant how Scorcese used the automaton as a symbolism for so many things, which sometimes makes me see the Automaton as more than just a McGuffin.

For example, the Automaton's a toy that's shaped like a man, and with it Scorcese takes the opportunity to comment on what he thinks about man.

The idea is that we need to make man work properly, to improve on the way we are, to fix man. In a way, Scorcese is commenting on how 'man' can move foward, evolve, change for the better. That image of turning the heart around was interesting, if I remember correctly, this is what the key does, it changes the automatons heart around...a symbolism for what Scorcese wishes man would do? Change it, fix it, because according to one of the characters, the secret to everything is in the clock work...our inner self.

Also, the automaton is used to symbolize the broken human being, the one that isnt functioning the way it should and will remain broken unless it does what it came to this earth to do. It's a symbolism for "completing" ourselves, fullfilling ourselves. I love how it comments on the fact that this is the only way in which we will be truly happy.

The way Melies was when he was making his movies, without his movies, he was a sad man.

I loved the symbolisms behind the automaton.


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