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.