Hugo (2011)

Miami has many high-rise buildings with exterior balconies. Even the simplest of cities (although by no stretch of the imagination could Miami be called “simple”) is fascinating when looked on from a different perspective.

Yet it is extremely rare to actually see people on those balconies. I guess most people would rather search for the perfect Mojito, the perfect tan, or maybe the perfect taco (which, by the way, could very easily be found at Taco Bell ).

Which brings us to a wonderfully unusual movie that recently opened, Hugo (2011). A different perspective is definitely needed to appreciate it. Director Martin Scorsese introduces us to a wonderfully complex detective story, and at the same time teaching us about the beginnings of modern cinema.

A young orphan, Hugo (Asa Butterfield) ends up being the caretaker of the gigantic clock mechanism of a Paris train station. All he has from his deceased father (Jude Law) is an automaton (a wind-up robot) that is not quite finished. In the course of stealing parts for the automaton from a shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley), he meets Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). Isabelle inexplicably has a key that fits into the automaton. It also turns out the shopkeeper is her Godfather.

That’s all you need to know. The movie twists and turns as it guides to the mystery of how all these events and characters are connected. Scorsese also takes us through the twists and turns with his camera, especially through the inner workings of the train station’s clocks. I am not a big advocate of 3-D in film, but Scorsese uses the 3-D effect wonderfully during these scenes. The 3-D also adds wonderful atmosphere to other scenes, as when the snow gently falls around the characters (and seemingly around us in the audience), or when small particles of dust in the air hover about.

Scorsese is a true lover of cinema, and this movie feels like a tutorial from him to all of us about the beginnings of film and the importance of film preservation. Many of the events and characters in the film are real, and although it is a work of fiction, it becomes a true history lesson. The recreation of actual scenes from the early movies of the groundbreaking French filmmaker  Georges Méliès (as shown below) are stunning.

One critic said Scorsese is out of his comfort zone with this film. If that’s true, let’s hope Scorsese stays uncomfortable so he can deliver more films such as this.

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