By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) -
Hugo Cabret is very young when his father dies in a fire at the Museum where he works. His uncle Claude takes him on as an apprentice winding the massive clocks at a Paris Rail Station, but, being a hopeless alcoholic, soon disappears. Hugo is left alone, with only a broken automaton for company.
As if steampunk made sweet love to Issac Asimov…
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese has often unfairly been characterized in the mainstream press as “That guy who does Mob movies”. It is less generally known that in his more than forty years as a filmmaker, he has also made psychological thrillers, spiritual films, biographical films, comedies, a musical, documentaries.
And whatever the fuck this is…
In many ways a love letter to early cinema, the story behind Hugo is one of love. Love of an artist for his body of work, of appreciation of the works of others, and the power that appreciation has. To Scorsese a filmmaker is also a magician. When done well a film deepens the spirit, and challenges the imagination. Also (in defiance of the common wisdom many a College Humanities professor expresses), he makes no distinctions between artist and artisan. To him a clock-maker or a mechanic is no less imaginative. Much like their less functional counterparts, their creations last for centuries and are wondrous in both their simplest and most complex forms. To paraphrase one of the film’s most powerful scenes; this is where dreams are made.
“You got that right, Kid”
In his varied career he has, however, never done anything accessible to younger audiences. Hugo fills that void. At its heart, Hugo is about the struggle to maintain childhood innocence in a cruel world. And for his part, Asa Butterfield does a fine job as the eponymous character. It is one of the most moving performances from a child actor I have seen. His Hugo is streetwise, yet shy, and wears his psychological scars on his sleeve. Ben Kingsley is a marvel as the tortured Toy Shop owner with a secret past. And in his less than ten minutes of screen time, Christopher Lee makes an indelible impression as the book shop keeper. Also notable is Sacha Baron Cohen, who as the Station Policeman is equal parts Buster Keaton and Inspector Clouseau. Indeed, his mannerisms here owe quite a bit to the physical comedy of Peter Sellers
That is a good thing, by the way.
In and amongst the films other strengths, Hugo represents a technological and artistic achievement yet unmatched in mainstream movies. Robert Richardson’s Cinematography utilizes the 3rd dimension so often and so well that it becomes an integral part of the viewing experience. Few films have used 3D for anything more than gimmick, and the ones which have tried for something more atmospheric (Avatar, Tron Legacy) have been far from perfect in their execution (both of those films lose very little when watched on regular screens).
If other filmmakers utilize the technology this well I shall find myself strongly considering a 3D television in the future (Tax Refund?).
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime the station inspector prat-falls
Take a Drink: whenever someone winds anything (clock, toy, machine etc.)
Down a Shot: for every movie history reference you catch (if you’re a Cinemaphile like me, you might just as well down the bottle at this point)