Friday, April 13, 2012

Hugo (Martin Scorsese)

Hugo Cabret.

Well, I can really say that 2011 has really been a great year for cinematic love poems. We have "The Artist", which pays tribute to the seminal greatness of silent films, and then we also have Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris", a film that has not only been an endearing piece about the eponymous city itself but also one that embraces the people behind great works of art and timeless literature. And finally, there's Martin Scorsese's "Hugo".

A film that centers on the beautiful power of imagination and the innocent wonder of early cinema, it is, overall, a piece of cinematic work that has truly breath fresh air into the boundless limits of storytelling and has also been a larger-than-life portrait/tribute to the great Georges Melies: a revolutionary director and the first true cinematic artist to whom we owe our wondrous film-watching lives and whose pioneering works have contributed to the advancement of cinema as a strong artistic medium.

Martin Scorsese, a man who I have been and will always consider as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and a man who we all loved by way of his films that deal with violence, loneliness, criminal perversions and even thematic controversies (with his truly masterful "The Last Temptation of Christ"), directed "Hugo" with surprising humility and simplicity without any traces of recklessly self-imposed panache. Sure, there have been countless elements in the film which may come across as truly audacious (the most glaring example being the automaton), but come on, "Hugo", a film adaptation of "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" written by Brian Selznick, is in no way up for something grounded in reality here.

Combining magical realism with the ironically down-to-earth story of Mr. Melies himself, "Hugo" is a balanced film which, in a very good way, wallows on 'adventure' that isn't literal in the Jules Verne sense of the word but more about the journey of the mind and the heart towards a hidden treasure chest not filled with tangible gold and pearls but one that is located somewhere within the very passionate soul of a truly great man.

Armed with visual sensibilities that closely mirror Tim Burton's recent child-friendly films, Martin Scorsese, furthered by that comparison may, on an initial glance, look out of place and sync with what he's working on, which is an adventure film that appeals to both the adults and the younger ones alike; a truly far-fetched idea considering that he really hasn't worked with the latter demographic before.

But looking at how "Hugo" actually turned out as a whole, right there and then surfaces the fact that he is indeed an unbelievably flexible filmmaker whose greatness cannot just be contained within the crime genre. As I watch the film, the joy of making it is evidently abundant in "Hugo's" very atmosphere which when coupled with the transcendental-sounding musical score created by Howard Shore, is a feast both for the eyes, the ears and, as corny as this may sound, the heart.

The actors do not disappoint either, and although Asa Butterfield may have done a bit better as the titular character, he has been quite a joy to watch in his convincing chemistry with Chloe Grace Moretz in a very sweet and 'harmless' (Remember "Kick-Ass"?) performance. Along with the enjoyably bit parts played by the legendary Christopher Lee and Jude Law and the comic part played by Sacha Baron Cohen as the train station inspector, it was Ben Kingsley's performance (which I believe should have at least been nominated for an Academy Award) as Georges Melies that has served as the figurative coal that has constantly kept the film's narrative locomotion on the right track.

Martin Scorsese, aside from being repeatedly heralded as one of the best filmmakers ever, is also one of the most passionate and vocal lovers of cinema out there. And here in "Hugo", he has expressively created a near-perfect cinematic love letter to the very medium itself that was initially seen as nothing but a passing fad (a statement ironically given by the Lumiere Brothers themselves), but now generally regarded as one of the most powerful means of expression, if not the most. And it all started with a trip to an all-smiling moon courtesy of a man motivated by endless wonder and fueled by nothing but his own dreams.


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