Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hugo 3D

Hugo / Hugo. US © 2011 GK Films [Graham King]. Paramount Pictures presents. PC also: Infinitum Nihil [Johnny Depp]. P: Johnny Depp, Tim Headington, Graham King, Martin Scorsese. D: Martin Scorsese. Second unit: large. SC: John Logan - based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures (2007) by Brian Selznick, in Finnish Hugo Cabret: kuvaromaani, Tammi / Helene Bützow (2008). DP: Robert Richardson. PD: Dante Ferretti. AD team: large. Set dec: Francesca Lo Schiavo. Art dept: large. Cost: Sandy Powell. Makeup dept: large. Special effects dept: large. Visual effects dept (Pixomondo): very large. Special effects and visual effects companies: Plowman Craven & Associates; Industrial Light & Magic (opening shot created by), Lola Visual Effects, Mark Roberts Motion Control, Matte World Digital, Nvizage, Pixomondo, With A Twist Studio. 27 other companies involved. Anim: Ana Maria Alvarado. Stunt dept: large. M: Howard Shore. [There is a rich music selection, including Saint-Saëns and Satie, listed in the end credits]. [Many Georges Méliès movies are listed in the end credits, mostly via Lobster Films]. S: Philip Stockton. ED: Thelma Schoonmaker. Studio: Shepperton Studios (London). Loc: London; Paris; Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough (with Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits equipment). Casting: Ellen Lewis. C (from English Wikipedia): Asa Butterfield (Hugo Cabret), Ben Kingsley (Georges Méliès, the toy shop owner and former filmmaker), Chloë Grace Moretz (Isabelle, Georges' goddaughter), Sacha Baron Cohen (Inspector Gustave), Ray Winstone (as Claude Cabret, Hugo's uncle), Jude Law (Hugo's father, a clockmaker), Christopher Lee (Monsieur Labisse, the bookshop owner), Helen McCrory (Mama Jeanne, Georges' wife), Michael Stuhlbarg (René Tabard, a film historian), Emily Mortimer (Lisette, the flower girl), Frances de la Tour (Madame Emile, the owner of the café), Richard Griffiths (Monsieur Frick, the newspaper seller), Marco Aponte (train engineer assistant), Emil Lager (Django Reinhardt, the guitarist). 126 min. Original in English only. Distributed by Finnkino with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Hanna-Mari ... 2K DCP, 3D XpanD, viewed at Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 25 Feb 2012.

Technical specs from IMDb: Camera: Arri Alexa, Cooke S4 and 5/i Lenses - format: Digital - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Fusion Camera (dual-strip 3-D) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical), D-Cinema (also 3-D version) - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

The story is set in Paris in 1931.

"Come and dream with me."
- the motto of Georges Méliès in Hugo

The production of Hugo has been huge, but Martin Scorsese has not been overwhelmed by his first 3D project. It is a new opening in his long career. There is a sense of wonder in this fantasy for children (of all ages). Hugo is my favourite Martin Scorsese fiction film since Life Lessons.

The 3D experience was successful at the cinema where I saw Hugo. The image was bright, and I never felt the temptation to remove my 3D glasses although the movie was over two hours long and many of the previews were in 3D, too. My best 3D experiences have been in cinemas that are not among the biggest ones.

The colour palette is consistently, interestingly and successfully artificial, partly inspired by the tinting, toning and stencil colours of early cinema. There is a continuation with Scorsese's experiments with many colour palettes in The Aviator. Both The Aviator and Hugo are partly biopics of visionary film-makers, and both emulate partly the imagery of their subjects.

In the beginning there are many mechanical marvels like the impossible establishing tracking shot. The dramatis personae are introduced.

During the first third of the movie I was not sure what to think. Martin Scorsese is a great artist with a profound sense of humour in grave subjects such as Taxi Driver and A Letter to Elia, but in straight comedy and farce he is not at his best. Scorsese is a master of deeply felt psychological suspense, but his chase sequences are only well-executed showcases of professionalism; they do not seem to have a personal meaning.

Scorsese's soul emerges towards the middle when the identity of the grim toy seller is revealed. The film touches greatness during the last third, with Hugo's nightmares, and with Méliès made to confront his legacy at last.

A central theme is the world of machines, especially clockworks. The automaton is a central mystery, and repairing it is a major plotline. Discovering the heart-shaped key can bring it to function again. Broken machines and broken people cannot fulfill their purpose, but one can try to fix them. "I wonder what my purpose is?" is the underlying question in the development of the story.

Trains and clocks are also major motifs. The central setting is the Gare Montparnasse railway station. Hugo is the son of a clockmaker, and Harold Lloyd's clock-hanging sequence is a significant point of reference.

Cinema is also a marvel of machines, bringing us to quickly to different places like the train does, and it is also an experience in time, like the clock.

Most ominously, war - the First World War - has been a terrible phenomenon of the machine age. Lisette's brother has fallen in Verdun. Inspector Gustave is a war invalid who has lost his leg, now replaced by a mechanical one.

Georges Méliès is also portrayed as a victim of WWI. La Belle Époque ended with the war. "So much reality. No taste for me anymore".

Hugo is a great introduction for children to the birth of the cinema.

The highlights of Hugo are meta-cinematic. The automaton repaired by Hugo produces a Voyage to the Moon drawing signed by Georges Méliès. At the Méliès home a hidden secret box is full with Méliès drawings and paintings. There is a fictive film historian "René Tabard" whose film history book comes alive as a montage of film history. Tabard's childhood memory flashback takes us to the Star Film studio in Montreuil ("this is where dreams are made"). Tabard, Hugo, and Isabelle show to Jeanne Méliès (less buxom in Hugo than in reality) Voyage to the Moon. Georges is furious at first, but in the great emotional turning-point of the movie he admits that "maybe it's time at last to remember". We see his own view of his life story as a powerful flashback with the tragic ending of the decay of the Star Film studio, burning it all, and melting the priceless negatives for chemicals to produce shoe heels.

Minor remarks could be made about the film historical side. Couldn't we stop spreading the myth about audiences terrified by the arrival of the train in Lumière screenings; probably they were delighted by the miracle of the new machine. Solo piano music by Saint-Saëns and Satie (the selections are correct for the period) is heard to silents but there was probably no music in the first film shows and a small band or a big orchestra in important cinemas later on. Pandora's Box was little known at the time; it became famous decades later. These remarks are pedantic I know.

I may start to rate Hugo as a great film. It is a film about the healing power of illusion. It praises the might of the imagination, not only in the magic of Georges Méliès movies but also in literature. The scenes at the book-seller's are full of love, and the formidable Christopher Lee gets to play a positive character for a change. The movie starts as a story of machines, and it grows into a tale of real emotion. Imagination, fantasy, dreams, and nightmares can help us realize more profoundly who we really are, "what our purpose is", our own dignity and the dignity of others.

1 comment:

Anton Asikainen said...

Apparently, you have seen quite the different movie than I did. Leaving that aside, you may not be aware that the writer of the book upon which the film is based on is a relative to David O. Selznick.