HUGO (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 2011)
As I've reported many times, I'm not a fan of the current 3D trend. I've found it to be a headache inducing gimmick that gets in the way of, rather than enhances, the movie-going experience.
However, I was still incredibly eager to see what master film maker Martin Scorsese could do with the format, so I put my bias aside and happily donned the glasses to take in his grand adaptation of Brian Selznick's 2007 novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."
I was delighted from start to finish, as Scorsese's HUGO is an amazing experience in the third dimension.
Asa Butterfield portrays the title character, a 13 year old Parisian orphan who lives inside the walls of the Gare Montparnasse train station in the early 1930s. While not maintaining the station's many clocks, Butterfield spies on a toy stand run by the cold Ben Kingsley.
Butterfield is trying to finish building an automaton (a mechanical man) that his father (Jude Law) was working on before he death. Kingsley catches Butterfield stealing parts from his stand, and confiscates his father's notebook filled with important instructions.
While attempting to get the notebook back, Butterfield befriend's Kingsley's goddaughter (Chloë Grace Moretz), who happens to have a heart-shaped key that perfectly fits the automaton's key hole.
To maneuver through the mysteries of the movie, Butterfield gets help from Moretz, a wise old bookshop owner (the great Christopher Lee), and as a kind film historian (Michael Stahlberg), all while staying one step ahead of a bumbling station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen who has just the right light comical approach to what could've been a standard fool on the sidelines role).
Butterfield learns that Kingsley is the legendary French film maker Georges Méliès, whose technical innovations in the art of movie production had folks dubbing him the world's first "Cinemagician."
There is certainly a lot of cinemagic on display in Hugo. From the inner workings of the train station's clocks, to the depth of details making up the Paris surroundings, there are a wealth of intoxicating visuals.
However, what's really stunning about HUGO is how touchingly personal a film it is. Scorsese successfully recreates the sense of wonder that he felt as a kid in the audience of a Brooklyn movie palace, with his love of movie magic culminating in a breathtaking mixture of original Méliès footage, and wondrously faithful re-creations.
Scorsese's first family film (indeed his first PG-rated film in almost 20 years) contains the best use of 3D imagery I've see yet, but it's such a work of overwhelming beauty that it would still be fantastic in 2D.
As the film's wide-eyed protagonist, Butterfield brings a lot of infectious spirit which is charmingly complimented by Moretz's precocious pluck. The subtle power of Kingsley's presence is also nicely matched with the poignancy of Helen McCrory as his wife who was once an actress in his films.
A cinematic love letter from one master to another, this film is as deserving of your ticket money as it is another Best Picture Oscar for Scorsese (Robert Richards' cinematography deserves an Academy Award too).
HUGO is one from the heart that will go down in history.