Friday, December 09, 2011

Hugo: A children's film by Martin Scorsese

As regular readers will know, this blog likes orphans and railway stations. So I was bound to enjoy Martin Scorsese's Hugo. What children will make of it, I don't know. I suspect it may be a little long and slow for some of them.

It tells the story of its eponymous hero who lives within the walls of a great Paris station tending its clocks and trying to avoid being carted off to the orphanage. The story tells of the way he makes sense of his own history and, even more, the history of cinema.

As Peter Bradshaw's Guardian review said:
Hugo is pitched as much to cinephile adults as children, and insists, in a fervent if rather pedagogic way, on that magical quality of cinema which children and grownups generally feel without needing to be told. 
This is a spectacular and gorgeously created film, with allusions to Harold Lloyd and Fritz Lang, and it's an almost overwhelming assault on the senses from the very first shot: a vision of post-first-world-war Paris which sees the city as one gigantic clockwork contrivance. We are then treated to a terrific camera move, whooshing into a crowded railway station where the action is to commence, and where the audience will feel like rubbernecking in awe at a cathedral of digital detail.
And it is an extraordinary spectacle, though perhaps my breath was taken away in part because Hugo is the first 3D film that I have seen.

It marries two likeable child stars (now there's a rarity) with a wonderful collection of familiar British faces: Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, Christopher Lee.

Another of them, Sacha Baron Cohen, plays the station inspector whose life's work is to hand orphans over to the authorities. He looks so like office Crabtree from 'Allo 'Allo that it makes you laugh. I wonder if Scorsese knew this? Anyway, Hugo's life is made difficult by the fact that the inspector can be pissing by the door at any moment.

Indeed it is a very British film. It's not just the cast: we are told that Hugo's mother came from England, even though this has no relevance to the plot.

Somewhere behind this is another very British - very English - story. Scorsese played an enormously important and honourable part in restoring the reputation and films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. If you watch Hugo you will sense the echoes.

And this film is edited by Powell's widow Thelma Schoonmaker.


Anonymous said...

Typo methinks

Hugo's life is made difficult by the fact that the inspector can be pissing by the door at any moment.

Jonathan Calder said...

You have obviously never watched 'Allo 'Allo.