Pic­ture per­fect

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas LEIGH PAATSCH

A MAN who is tra­di­tion­ally at his best de­pict­ing hu­man­ity at its worst has fi­nally made his first chil­dren’s film.

This begs the ques­tion: what is Martin Scors­ese do­ing mess­ing about with what could well be fam­ily- friendly fluff? And in the dreaded 3D for­mat, no less.

The an­swer? Hugo is an ab­so­lute tri­umph on all counts, a work of con­sum­mate skill, thought and feel­ing that ranks with Scors­ese’s best.

Re­spect­fully adapted from Brian Selznick’s ac­claimed pic­ture book The In­ven­tion of Hugo Cabret ( for which Scors­ese pur­chased the screen rights im­me­di­ately upon pub­li­ca­tion in 2007), Hugo is pri­mar­ily set in a beau­ti­ful train sta­tion in cen­tral Paris.

An or­phan boy named Hugo ( Asa But­ter­field) lives there in se­cret, tend­ing to the sta­tion’s clocks.

Though he is a reg­u­lar fix­ture on the plat­forms and thor­ough­fares, he is al­ways a boy in a hurry. A lo­cal gen­darme ( Sacha Baron Co­hen) loves noth­ing more than find­ing run­away chil­dren and re­turn­ing them to state care.

Hugo’s sole prize pos­ses­sion is a bro­ken au­toma­ton – a wind- up me­chan­i­cal ro­bot of sorts – left be­hind by his late fa­ther ( Jude Law). His goal is to re­pair the gizmo to keep the fad­ing mem­ory of his dad alive. By in­ad­ver­tently fall­ing foul of a nearby shop­keeper ( Ben Kings­ley) – and then be­friend­ing his in­quis­i­tive daugh­ter ( Chloe Moretz) – Hugo draws closer to realising his dream.

How­ever, this pleas­ing, if some­what fa­mil­iar strand of the story is not what seized Scors­ese’s imag­i­na­tion.

That much is clear when the film in­tro­duces a key real- life char­ac­ter who played a vi­tal in­no­va­tive role in the early days of cinema.

French silent film­maker Ge­orge Melies dreamed up and nailed down many of the cam­era tricks that spawned the ev­er­chang­ing art of spe­cial ef­fects.

By the sec­ond half of Hugo, Scors­ese is chart­ing the mo­men­tous fi­nal stages of his young ti­tle char­ac­ter’s quest and also cel­e­brat­ing the magic once con­jured by Melies and then soon for­got­ten.

The re­sult is en­chant­ing, bol­stered fur­ther by Scors­ese’s su­perb grasp of the 3D for­mat.

Any­one who loves movies for what they can be, in­stead of what they might have been, must go to Hugo.

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