Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Movie Review: Hugo

Let’s start by saying that if nothing else, Martin Scorsese and I DO have one thing in common: an undying love for movies. Not restricted by genre, style or school, this love is of the very art form that allows us to visually tell stories. Let’s also go ahead and say that Martin Scorsese and I agree on one idea, kids are NEVER too young to be encouraged NOT to be stupid. Unfortunately, the list of my similarities with arguably one of the greatest story-tellers of contemporary cinema ends right there. What starts now is a movie, about a boy and his love of movies, and a man and his love of movies, and a whole world of people who love movies, from the time they were first made. Do not miss this line if you plan to watch this movie: Hugo is NOT about a precocious young boy named Hugo Cabret, or of his adventures in the mystical and magical Paris. Hugo is a story about Martin Scorsese’s LOVE for cinema. Again, Hugo is NOT a movie made for children, no matter what the posters tell you or the MPAA rating says. Hugo is simply a movie for anyone who loves, or has ever loved, or is even remotely interested in movies, because, by the end of the movie, you may not love the movie, but you will truly appreciate the enormous power of the medium.

That is probably the highest concentration of the words movie and love in one paragraph, but the emphasis is necessary to truly grasp the incredible journey of Hugo. First, for the naysayers who hate 3D and think it’s just a way to drive up ticket prices, GO WATCH Hugo, IN 3D. The masterful use of the medium is more than justified with his small scope, restricting us to a Parisian train station and yet showing us a whole world we could never have known, in a way we could never have known it in. From the flakes of snow that fall towards you, or the first movie train that scared all its viewers, from the swinging pendulum in Hugo’s home/workplace to the bustling crowd, Martin Scorsese uses 3D not to enthrall you, but to truly involve you. This movie will hold up for its sheer genius even in the regular 2D, but not even Avatar could truly harness the potential of 3D to tell a story, not just enhance it, like Scorsese does in this film. From turning gears to winding toys, every frame of the film is adroitly put together, with a purpose beyond mere decoration, so much so that with every repeat, an interested viewer could unravel a new layer of this truly multi-dimensional movie.
So Hugo isn’t a children’s movie; that has been established. There aren’t dragons to be tamed and wonderlands to be explored or hot air balloons to rise up in. Yet it is accessible to people of any age. Unrestricted, simplistic, and relatable are adjectives that could describe Scorsese’s approach to this film. What is even more astonishing is something that could stand as a great lesson for schools everywhere. Scorsese immerses himself so entirely in his story-telling that he translates his own love of the cinema to his viewers, without preaching to them. Instead, he chooses to share his passion, and the sincerity of purpose truly translates to the person watching. He talks about French cinema from years ago, magical realism and Milies’s work, unknown to novice movie goers, and yet, even a child (in this case, the eponymous Hugo (Butterfield) and Isabelle (Moretz)) can easily relate to it, because instead of going one of two popular routes, being pedantic or being silly, Scorsese talks about them as a visualization of dreams, something everyone has and everyone can relate to. He also breaches dissatisfaction and dejection in a very real way, a feeling of having lost one’s purpose, and yet avoids being melodramatic about it. And yet, as is probably why Scorsese chose to make the movie the way he did, this is probably the best movie to take your child to this year. There are enough thrills, there is humour, and there is a happy ending, for the traditional-minded, but so much more. There is science, and magic and just enough history to pique one’s curiosity, and it’s probably about time that children found more stimulating fare than there generally is to offer.
I haven’t really discussed the story of the film, or any of its many technical merits, because these are best experienced by watching it. The performances are brilliant all around, right from the lead child actors to the stately Kingsley and the very adept McRory. I am more fascinated by the fact that this is a Martin Scorsese film, brilliant like he always is, and yet this is the biggest departure one could imagine from his regular brand. As a film historian within the film says, it is lamentable that one can only read about old movies in books, if that, because they were, in the days before we had this technological prowess, purely a flight of fancy. Scorsese uses this flight of fancy to mirror the fact that contemporary cinema is unnecessarily pigeon-holed, restricted from reaching a wide audience by prejudices and formulae and absolutely no imagination. All you need to tell a story is an imagination and a willingness to tell it. As Mama Jeanne (McRory) tells her god-daughter about the marvelous colour films of Milies, “We tinted it ourselves, colouring each frame individually.” Scorsese too colours each film with a stroke from the brush of his mind, and adapts an already acclaimed book to a sure-to-be acclaimed movie. And as hard as it was to categorize Selznick’s literary endeavor, so pointless it is to try to restrict Hugo to a genre or a target demographic. Therein lays Scorsese’s victory, because that isn’t the point of the movie at all. The only point is that this, finally, is a movie that you aren’t TAKING your child to, but GOING with your child for, a rare feat in the live action movie world.



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