“Films have the power to capture dreams,” we are told by a character in the new film Hugo, which opened today across the country. When I was in high school, I watched every film that crossed my path. They were either foreign films or black & white classics. I remember the day that I saw Cinema Paradiso. I was completely transported into another place and time and was reminded about the power of film and the effect that it’s had on the world and my own life. Twenty-five years, I have once again been transported with an unusual and incredible piece of story-telling by none other than the legendary Director, Martin Scorcese. Leave it to him to make such a film. It’s a piece of art, in my mind, a masterpiece.
Part of my excitement tonight revolves around the fact that my 7 year-old son loved this film as much as I did and was introduced to the world of silent films, a period that as a film minor in college I studied very carefully. The works of George Méliès, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton are not only saluted but they are in some ways recreated by Scorcese’s film making. I feel as though my own son had a study in film-making tonight and it was totally unexpected.
Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the film revolves around Hugo, an orphan played by Asa Butterfield, who lives in the main train station in Paris. It’s his job to make sure that all the clocks work (an aspect in the story that my son was enchanted with as he’s slightly obsessed with time) while trying to keep away from the station guard, played by the delicious Sacha Baron Cohen (I never use that adjective, but you’ll know what I mean after you see this film). He also labors to fix a life-size automaton that, once repaired, might transmit a message from his father. Through a chance meeting with the train station’s toy shop owner, played skillfully by Ben Kingsley, he is able to change the course of his life. As a clandestine film pioneer (Méliès) who’s huge library of films got destroyed after World War 1, he needed a child like Hugo to come along and change his life. Hugo is a magical transformation for both of them.
Scorcese has made documentaries about the history of film and has made himself a real spokesperson for film preservation over the years. This film is a homage to everything he loves and cares most about. Seeing the works of Méliès resurrected in a film for children is just mind-boggling and glorious.
This film captured all my dreams and hopefully created some new ones for my son.
Rated PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril, and smoking.