Sunday, January 08, 2012

"Hugo 3D" (2011) - Movie Review

“Hugo” is the best example of how can two great directors approaching a sappy material. One can invoke life out of it and the other, well, the sappiness out of it. The latter of course was the painfully sentimental “War Horse” I kicked of 2012. Martin Scorsese’s film though threatened to take the route of Spielberg’s venture gets rescued splendidly in the middle by none other than Sir Ben Kingsley as Papa Georges and the enchanting visuals and further editing by Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s regular collaborator.

Based on the Brian Selznick’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabaret”, this follows the titular boy played by Asa Butterfield confined in the train station at Paris. He goes around keying the clocks varying from giant to the smallest and he does that with no one noticing it. Even the most vigil and comical Inspector Gustav played by Sacha Baron Cohen with the oddity in bringing laughs from merely the way he delivers a line. Hugo watches the people who run their livelihood in the station through the gaps of the clocks amongst the minutes and seconds. One particular man’s shop has been his regular target for stealing something for his secret machine. That would be Ben Kingsley Papa Georges.

Who would have imagined that one of the greatest directors of our times especially a legendary classic one would opt for 3D that is single handedly panned down by hardcore film goers which includes this reviewer. With that skepticism as I watched “Hugo”, I was slowly getting justified of that feeling. Not that I am dead set against meagre semblance of sentiments, I am just wary of excessively manipulated one and to be disappointed by a director I admire to a great deal would have been heart breaking. But the master story teller was holding his best cards till the middle and reveals a magical experience that lays forth the reasons for everything including the spectacular use of 3D.

Hugo is the Oliver Twist kind of character. He is an orphan and is left alone to fend for himself in the big wide world. In this scenario it is the train station and Scorsese takes you through this giant fulcrum that makes it all going in the opening shot and then on several other occasions to feel the steam, the crowd and the fresh smell of baked pastries laid out amongst those with flagrance and beauty. Hugo has one thing that keeps him going which is to fix the automaton his dad (Jude Law) brought from his museum. That is the heart beat which keeps Hugo surviving day by day. Thus bringing him to encounter the owner of the train toy shop, the old man Papa Georges.

He gets a compadre as the old man’s god daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and they form a convincing bond. She is at the age fascinated by the fantasy from the books she read though beckoning real life adventures. Sure enough Hugo has those right from the sheer amazement of getting her into this giant train station’s interior sparsely seen. Then Hugo introduces her to the films that has been forbidden by her Papa Georges which we come to know why.

Hugo is a celebration of this art medium. When Lumierre brothers invented films, they did not think much of it and saw it as a passing entertainment which again we learn from the film. And all it took was some wonderful artists to take this and paint their own to capture the attention of the audience and what we have now is something of a monster that threatens, fascinates, feeds and provides us with great films, horrendous ones and to miniatures to monumental film makers. As I think about the film, it stands more and more of a perfect homage to the work he loves rather than a sappy film about a boy finding his purpose.

Hugo has the precise execution of several actors which I have mentioned but the one that surprised me was Sacha Baron Cohen who I have not taken seriously as an actor. Here what could have become a side note of a character existing for physical comedy in the childish manner possible transforms into a reasonable and genuine person. His comedy is best not through his comical running in his mechanical leg but when he speaks to Hugo for the first time, his pure interaction with his mean and majestic dog Maximillan and his cluelessness in impressing the lady (Emily Mortimer) he has interest in. I would love to see him in better roles more than his regular but committed crazy characters he suits on in his mocumentaries and other ventures.

As the film unfolds to reveal one of the earliest film makers who was fascinated by this medium that resembled his then trait of magics and illusions, I as a film lover could not stop myself to be captured by the montage of the flash backs that are laid out. What a pleasure to purely create magic and inventing those techniques with a team and that process is what fascinates every film maker. In “Hugo”, Scorsese gets to show his fascination and then provide that inspiration to the kids who will be watching this. Even as an ardent film lover, I was not aware of Méliès and to re-ignite that legacy in the coming and existing generation who has forgotten the ancestors of the medium is the right way for a film maker to present this film. And to add the looked down medium of 3D into a true tool of reason to be a homage to those early effects is nothing but mastery. This truly has opened the eyes of the people who just put down a film for 3D alone (including me) to justify the film for its purpose and the tools that aid them. Granted that this reviewer has enjoyed few of the 3D films but I was never a fan of it. While this film has not changed the opinion of this reviewer of unnecessary insertion of 3D in films, I can give this tool as the great special effects that revolutionizes the movies a chance.

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