What We’re Watching – 12/21/2011

HugoHugo (2011)

It’s no secret that I’m a Martin Scorsese fanboy. His film knowledge, influential style, and constant output of quality productions are one of the major factors that led me to loving movies in the first place. In a career that has spanned roughly forty years, his is one who has been rarely equaled. His latest film, Hugo (2011), is a piece of work that is unlike anything he’s done before, but arguably the one most representative of who he is. Scorsese has created a story about his love for the cinema disguised as a family tale for all to enjoy. The main character of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), an orphan who lives inside the walls of a 1930s Parisian train station, works as a metaphor for Scorsese himself. Just as Hugo peers through the walls to see all the stories happening inside of the station, so did a young Scorsese peer out of his apartment window to see all the life going on in the streets of Little Italy.

I was kind of amazed to see how Scorsese effortlessly weaved the story of Hugo, attempting to repair an automaton left to him by his late father (Jude Law), with that of his love for the cinema. As the story unfolds further, we find that the film is not just about Hugo, but also about the personal redemption of Georges Méliès. Yes, the same Georges Méliès who helped pioneer the early advances of film language and technique. Here he is played wonderfully by Ben Kinglsey, at first cranky and mean-spirited, but as Hugo, with the help of his friend Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), begins to chip away at his self-made walls, we begin to understand him. Méliès develops from a standoffish old toy shop keeper to a man that had lost the passion for what he loved to do most, and that was to make film and play with it in the same way that a magician would play with an audience. The latter half of the movie, as we begin to see the kind of joy that Méliès has when creating his work, is where the true magic lies. Kingley is exceptional in the way he exudes such pleasure with making his films and sharing them with the world. It’s a very touching and heartwarming performance. Near the end of the movie, there is a montage that I dare not describe here, but after watching it, I felt a sense of rejuvenation. Film is the dominant art form of the new century, and this movie is an ode to the power of it.

But oh, there is so much more to talk about with this film, it truly deserves an article all to its own. We haven’t even covered the performances of the supporting characters. The train station felt alive with the many smaller stories that inhabit it, each an homage to the stories of silent film. Sacha Baron Cohen is surprisingly very good as the watchful Station Inspector, and his relationship with the flower girl Lisette (Emily Mortimer) is reminiscent of another love story involving a goofy “tramp” and a lovely “flower girl.” I have always been one to deter from 3D, but this film may be the only time I can say that it is required of a moviegoer to see it in that format. Scorsese does a clever thing with tying 3D effects to that of the innovation of film itself. Just as the Lumière brothers made people jump out of their seats by filming a train coming straight at the camera, so does Scorsese take a train himself and hurtle it right through the screen, using the 3D to its full advantage. A little bit of the old, a little bit of the new.

I can continue on and on describing what I loved about the film, but to get to the point, this is something that one must see. It is a magical film from a master director, inviting people young and old to share with his enthusiasm, and even give them a little bit of a history lesson as well. Yes, I’m a Scorsese fan in a big way, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying that this is one of the best movies of the year. There will definitely be a spot for it in my end of the year list.


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Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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