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  Hugo Magic of the Movies
Year: 2011
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone, Michael Stuhlbarg, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, Jude Law, Kevin Eldon, Gulliver McGrath, Shaun Aylward
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 5 votes)
Review: Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan boy who lives behind the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. The one thing Hugo has left of his late father (Jude Law) is a mysterious mechanical man which will not move without the aid of a special key he is desperate to find. Having learned how to fix clockwork gadgets from his father, Hugo puts these skills to good use ensuring the station clocks run properly. Each day he watches people going about their daily lives, taking particular interest in Georges (Ben Kingsley), the grumpy, embittered owner of a small toy store. Angry at this intrusion, Georges seizes Hugo’s precious notebook. In his attempts to retrieve it, Hugo befriends the old man’s god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), a spirited young girl with a great love of books. To her surprise, Isabelle discovers she holds the key that fits inside the automaton, thus unlocking an astonishing secret that binds Hugo, his father and Georges.

Few could have imagined the great Martin Scorsese, maker of gritty, uncompromising dramas from Mean Streets (1973) to Goodfellas (1990), would someday create a feel-good family film, nor that it would stand as arguably his most heartfelt and personal effort. It was Scorsese’s own young daughter who presented him with the book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” written by Brian Selznick who, having earlier woven fantasies around such real-life magicians as Harry Houdini and Lon Chaney Sr., here presented a love letter to the founding father of cinema, a subject obviously close to the master filmmaker’s heart. Here was a story whose adaptation for the screen could bind father and daughter, and perhaps young and old around the world in shared wonder and devotion to the magic of cinema.

Hugo is a film enraptured by the mechanics of cinema and how, as true cinephiles know, the art of storytelling can enrich and enlighten. It is also, arguably, the first film to make truly intelligent use of the 3D format, both as a storytelling device and as subtext. Scorsese uses 3D to present the world as young Hugo perceives it - as one great, big, interactive box of tricks. If you can follow the clues and solve the puzzles, something wondrous pops out. Scorsese draws a parallel between the intricacies of clockwork machinery and the network of human lives that make up our everyday existence, with all their invididual hopes and heartaches, dreams and passions. In short, their humanity. Scorsese reminds us cinema is the one great machine capable of capturing the miraculous movement of life, and perhaps helping us understand how all the pieces fit together. The film presents a storybook vision of Paris but the emotions, as in all Scorsese movies, are real. For a family film it is defiantly unsentimental. Its adventure is not fantasy but instead a voyage of human discovery. The plot may play fast and loose with historical events but its soul is true.

Utterly engaging performances from bright-eyed newcomer Asa Butterfield and the increasingly impressive Chloë Grace Moretz convey a love of not just cinema (a trip to see Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923) proves a revelation for young Isabelle), but people and everyday lives akin to Amelie (2001), though perhaps equally reflecting the bedridden young Scorsese’s own fascination watching the world through his window. The young leads are supported by an array of warmly drawn and memorable characters inhabited by a terrific British cast, especially Ben Kingsley as the embittered Papa George, Helen McCrory as his resilient wife and Christopher Lee, making his first appearance in a Martin Scorsese picture, as the kindly owner of Isabelle’s beloved bookstore. Even comedian Sacha Baron Cohen moves beyond his initially grating comedy policeman routine to deftly unveil the wounded, vulnerable human being underneath. His anxiety over a crippled leg hinders his courtship of flower seller Emily Mortimer.

Scorsese runs through a veritable encyclopaedia of film techniques lifted from silent classics yet seemlessly integrated into a narrative in which the story of cinema literally comes alive via vintage clips and stunning recreations. As one protagonist in Hugo remarks, movies bring dreams to life. Scorsese invites us to dream along.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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Martin Scorsese  (1941 - )

American writer and director who emerged as one of the brightest and most vital of the generation of filmmakers who came to prominence during the 1970s with his heartfelt, vivid and at times lurid works. After deciding against joining the priesthood, he turned to his other passion - movies - and started with short efforts at film school until Roger Corman hired him to direct Boxcar Bertha.

However, it was New York drama Mean Streets that really made Scorsese's name as a talent to watch, and his succeeding films, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (which won Ellen Burstyn an Oscar and is the only Scorsese movie to be made into a sitcom) and the cult classic Taxi Driver (starring Robert De Niro, forever associated with the director's work) only confirmed this.

Unfortunately, his tribute to the musical New York, New York was a flop, and he retreated into releasing concert movie The Last Waltz before bouncing back with boxing biopic Raging Bull, which many consider his greatest achievement. The rest of the eighties were not as stellar for him, but The King of Comedy and After Hours were cult hits, The Color of Money a well-received sequel to The Hustler and The Last Temptation of Christ kept his name in the headlines.

In the nineties, Scorsese began with the searing gangster saga Goodfellas, and continued with the over-the-top remake of Cape Fear before a change of pace with quietly emotional period piece The Age of Innocence. Casino saw a return to gangsters, and Kundun was a visually ravishing story of the Dalai Lama. Bringing Out the Dead returned to New York for a medical tale of redemption, and Gangs of New York was a muddled historical epic.

Still the Best Director Oscar eluded him, but the 2000s gave what many saw as his best chance at winning. Slick Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator didn't make it, but remake of Infernal Affairs The Departed finally won him the prize. Outlandish thriller Shutter Island then provided him with the biggest hit of his career after which he surprised everyone by making family film Hugo - another huge hit.

This was followed by an even bigger success with extreme broker takedown The Wolf of Wall Street, and a return to his religious origins with the austere, redemption through torture drama Silence. Despite being an advocate of the theatrical experience, he joined forces with Netflix for The Irishman, reuniting him with De Niro for one last gangster epic. He also directed Michael Jackson's Bad music video.

 
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