Thursday, January 12, 2012

HUGO - A Must for Fans of the Cinema

HUGO (family drama)
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, Helen McCrory and Michael Sthalbarg
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: John Logan (based on Brian Selznick's illustrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret)
Time: 125 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Asa Butterfield as Hugo

PREAMBLE: Set mostly in Paris' Montparnasse railway station, circa 1931 and coloured in Dickensian tones, Hugo is Martin Scorsese's tribute to the era of the silent movies - just like another potential Oscar contender, The Artist.

Hugo may be rather heavy-going for young children but it should be a delight to fans of the cinema. Scorsese's passion for the history of cinema is evident and infectious, especially when it is so spectacularly rendered in 3D.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphaned boy living within the walls and passageways of the Montparnasse station. He spends his days fixing and maintaining the station clocks - and avoiding the station's inspector (played by Sacha Baron Cohen, pic left) who wants to send him to an orphanage.

When Hugo meets Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), he's inspired to unlock the mystery of a robot-like device discovered by his late father (Jude Law). Hugo thinks that his father has left him a message in the 'robot'. However, the 'robot' instead points to Isabelle's own grouchy godfather Georges (Ben Kingsley), who turns out to be pioneer film-maker Georges Méliès. Hugo and Isabelle then try to rekindle his love for cinema, aided by kindly film historian Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg).

HITS & MISSES: I am not too enamoured of the main plot about Hugo's life in the railway station. Questions about his daily existence arise, and there is also the moral stigma of his stealing food and drink from stalls at the station. However, Scorsese furnishes the venue with interesting characters - like Cohen's handicapped Inspector and his romantic link to flower girl Lisette (Emily Mortimer) - and enigmatic subplots like Kingsley's toy-seller Georges.

The friendship and adventures between Hugo and Isabelle form an interesting lead to the unveiling of Georges Méliès' real identity and to Scorsese's salute to the masters of silent and 1930s French cinema. There is a screening of the Lumiere brothers' train arrival scene (L'Arrivee d'un train en gare de La Ciotat) and a scene from "Safety Last," in which silent comedy icon, Harold Lloyd, hangs from the hands of a giant clock. This image will soon be repeated at the end of the movie.

The director's passion with old movies is obvious as Scorsese is the founder and chairman of the World Cinema Foundation which has a campaign to preserve and restore old films. There isn't anything impressive in the acting department. Butterfield (who was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) is rather wooden while Moretz (the Kick-Ass girl) is a vision of good-heartedness and chirpiness. Also, look out for Christopher Lee in a non-villain role as a book lender.

THE LOWDOWN: A milestone film for fans of cinema history.

NB: HUGO has not yet been released in Malaysia. This review is
for the
benefit of those following the upcoming Oscar Race.


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