Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hugo Is Enchanting

Four Stars

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in the train station walls. He runs the clocks, after his uncle abandons him. His father (Jude Law) is dead from a fire. The opening long shot of the camera panning through the train station is breathtaking. We go through the entire train station and all the way into the clock hanging by a string that Hugo lives in before the camera pulls back to the entire train station. Then we get to the title of the film, “Hugo”. No one is denying that Martin Scorsese is a master. The film is about Paris in the 30s, and something I wasn’t expecting. It was about the birth of film. Based on a children’s novel by Brian Selznick, the film takes the viewer from Hugo’s life as an orphan to a mystery involving the early films of Georges Melies. Running at 130 minutes, the film presents a mystery for the kids to follow. It’s a treat when we get to see a Georges Melies film on the big screen, along with a clip of Harold Lloyd. That being said, Martin Scorsese presents a history lesson on film for kids presented through the tale of a lonely orphan worthy of J.K. Rowling.

Hugo steals from various vendors in the train station until one day he is caught by the man (Ben Kingsley) who runs the toy stand. The man takes away his notebook much to Hugo’s horror. In Hugo’s notebook is the layout for a robot he is building. If he can build the robot, and find the heart shaped key to the robot’s chest, then the robot can send him a message from his father. He meets in the train station Isabella (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) another orphan, yet in a better situation than him. Hugo always lives in fear of the station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen), who takes glee in catching orphans and sending them away to the orphanage. When Hugo finally does find the key shaped heart, he gets a message from his father. The message turns out to be a picture. He sets out on a mystery involving the films of Georges Melies. For those of you who don’t know who Georges Melies is, he’s one of the first pioneers of film.

Love of film is written all over this picture. It’s obvious why Martin Scorsese wanted to make this film. He wants to educate the kids in the audience on films, and it’s certainly interesting. Every shot of this film is beautiful. The film has a mystery involving old films and the history of film. That being said, I don’t want to give away the mystery. Certainly this picture is more interesting than a lot of other pictures out there. Often, I had to put away my film critic hat for this film, and put on my film lover hat. Georges Melies is thought to be dead, but alas that is where the mystery lies. Maybe he’s not.

I have no doubt that kids will be enchanted by this master filmmaker. Hugo is a lovable orphan like Harry Potter. It’s amazing this was directed by the same man who brought us films like “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas”. I hate to admit it, but I wasn’t sure that Scorsese would be able to pull off a kid’s film, but he does very well here.

There were was the scene when boxes of letters fall onto the ground and go flying. I thought of the scene in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, where the letters from Hogwarts go down the chimney and go flying. The relationship between Hugo and Isabella is a bit charming, as well. They hold hands and a kiss on the cheek. It’s nothing too intense for younger viewers. The montages of classic films are wonderful, and really interesting. Martin Scorsese, at the heart of this picture, has a message not only about friendship and family, but about film. He obviously wants to teach the kids film is important. If anything, “Hugo” is an important film because it might make the kids in the audience know about well, film. “Hugo” is simply an enchanting film, and it invites kids to learn something close to Scorsese’s heart. Throughout the picture, Hugo talks about finding your purpose. Hugo’s purpose is to fix things. Scorese’s is to tell us stories, and in this film, teach us as well.

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