Thursday, 25 July 2013

Hugo (2011) - ★★★★

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: John Logan (Screenplay), Brian Selznick (Book)
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, Jude Law

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors of all time, and Hugo happens to be one of his most ambitious films. He usually deals with gangsters and crime, but Hugo is his little homage to the very first films, from 'Arrival of a Train' by the Lumiere Brothers, to 'A Trip to the Moon' by George Méliès. It's one of the most visually beautiful films I've ever seen, and it also evokes the magic out of life's little adventures, whether they be from reading a book or watching a movie. It runs a little too long and the pace is too slow for my liking, but Hugo is captivating enough to be called one of the best movies of 2011.

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a little orphan boy who lives in the clocks of a train station in Paris, France. It seems that his purpose in life is to fix things, and the project he is working on happens to be a strange human-shaped machine called an automaton. He steals gears and spare parts from an old man who owns a toyshop… that is until he is caught. The old man is George Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who happens to have quite a history with the automaton, and is indeed one of the greatest pioneers of the filmmaking industry. Hugo tries to unravel the mystery of the automaton with his friend Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), which takes us on a journey that pays tribute to the early works of cinema.

I’m a little bit torn with the performances. Ben Kingsley is fantastic, as well as Sacha Baron Cohen. The two leads, Asa and Chloe, are great child actors, there’s no doubt about that. At times they weren’t very convincing, their expressions looked too forced and their words delivered too frigid and plainly. What I’m trying to say is, they just weren’t natural… While I like the actors that were cast, I think this movie would have been a lot better had they just used a French cast. It would have suited the setting, and indeed raised this film in my esteem.

The CGI looked fantastic in 2010 (I saw it in cinemas), but it looks a bit dated by today’s standards. Regardless, the cinematography and special effects are absolutely stunning. I really adored the score too, which suited the era, the people, the scenery and the story to a tee. I’m just really surprised at how Scorsese has created such a romantic, beautiful Paris (kind of like the one in Amelie).

I got quite emotional during the tribute they paid to George Méliès. In fact, I started to tear up. It’s wonderful that Brian Selznick has constructed a story around such an important figure to the world of cinema. Mélièsfilms truly are magical, and Hugo brought them back into the public eye again. I particularly loved the last thing Melies said in the film…“My friends, I address you all as you truly are. Wizards, mermaids, trolls, adventurers, magicians, come and dream with me.”

So in the end, I liked Hugo. For the most part, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling from all the lovely tributes paid to classic films. The first time I saw this movie, I found it extremely boring (that was before the wonderful world of cinema had swept me in its magic). Now that I've seen a number of movies, and indeed many of the ones that were highlighted in Hugo, I can tell you that this truly is a terrific film. Anyone who is interested in the history of cinema should like this movie, same with almost everyone who loves classic movies in general. Hugo is indeed a modern and beautiful film, but it's the classic, nostalgic atmosphere that makes it great. 

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