In Hugo, Martin Scorsese's usual styling of hard drama and crime are abandoned for a child's film, but with meaning just as deep and textures just as rich as in any other of his films, writes Jamie Leipnik.
Martin Scorsese has created one of the most magical, deep and substantial films of this millennium. Hugo centers around the age of golden film, a time before celebrity and social media. Scorsese has produced some of the finest films to grace the screen and this is his message of respect to the early filmmakers.
Hugo’s story is one prevailed by the enigmatic filmmaker Georges Méliès, often referred to as a cinemagician. Méliès was a pioneer; the motion picture was a novelty of an invention upon its inception, and Méliès had the good sense to turn it into a cultural stage of speculation and appreciation. In Hugo, Scorsese is bringing a true pioneer into public view. The film is true to the fact that Méliès does stop producing films after the war, though the story in reality is not quite so magical. Due to the American film industry’s demand for more productions, Méliès had to sign contracts with producers. However, he wanted to create epics even more ambitious than before. The fallout of this was that he did not produce enough films to satisfy his contract and became indebted to the studio – it was only the advent of the First World War that meant all legal obligations were dropped. Méliès eventually faded out and became a toy salesman at a Parisian station but there never was such a character as Hugo.
Film has undergone a wondrous journey that is filled with hard times and enigmatic individuals. Scorsese is truly paying homage to the illustrious career he has had and the revolutionary time over which it has taken place. As Scorsese steps out of the limelight he is making way for many others; new directors with new styles are stepping into the arena – Darren Aronofsky is an example of an up-and-coming mainstream director with a distinct style and an edge of uncertainty. New filmmakers will continue to develop a style and find their own personal way to convey their stories.
Hugo is one of the most visually enticing films of 2011. The Parisian backdrop leaves us with a romantic essence in our hearts before the true story has even begun. The intriguing subplots and even more intriguing characters have an instantly recognizable and reminiscent feel to them. As a film aimed primarily at children, it is theoretically brilliant. But what is most impressive is the way in which it is a tantalizing film for adults alike. Every shot, every sound and every line pushes the imagination further and pulls the heart closer. Scorsese has mastered both escapism and thought-provoking scenarios. The child-like delivery of each line and sub-moral is what makes it that much more accessible and easy to grasp despite the retrospectively difficult concepts at heart. The single line, “So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.” explains with tantalizing ease and hope how someone might find their place in the world. To push the concept to extremes, it could be seen as an existentialist sense of self-entitled purpose in an absurd universe.
With big names in the cast including Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee and Helen McRory, this film will instantly draw attention. It is easy to see this as a cult classic and something that masses will flock to buy on DVD and, as I would strongly recommend, Blu-Ray. The only flaw is that if you are not quite so much of a story-based purist or a cinema lover then this film may seem like a bit of a drag at times, though the escapism it offers will soon distract from that. With excellent performances from young actors Asa Butterfield (Hugo) and Chloe Moretz (Isabelle), Hugo tells a visionary tale carried by enthusiastic and convincing performances. The question must be asked though: would this film be such a success without Scorsese’s name behind it? Well, no, but it does not matter because this is Scorsese’s vision and it could not be the same without him. A thought provoking children’s film and at the very least a good bit of escapism for a Saturday evening.