Monday 27 August 2012

Hugo (2011) - Martin Scorsese

Scorsese's Hugo was one of the darlings of the Oscars this year, nominated for eleven awards and winning five.  However, it ultimately lost out to The Artist and it's not difficult to see why, despite a number of obvious similarities.  Clearly this year the voting board were easily wooed by the historical achievements of their own art form.

Like Hazanavicius's work, this is a film about the magic of cinema.  As Hugo's father (Jude Law) says, "the movies are our special place".  They are a form of escapism that transport us away from the clockwork machine of our daily routine.  It falls to blue-eyed boy Hugo to rediscover the joy of cinema, through a mystery sparked by a mechanical automaton left to him by his late father - a fairly horrific looking clockwork Frankenstein boy.

Scorsese's vision of 1930s Paris is stunningly realised (and surely enhanced by 3D), but this is a world of art rather than magic.  Rather than unravelling a fantastical realm for us to revel in, Hugo opens the door into cinematic history with an old-fashioned film filled with subtle nods to cinematic classics.  The Artist has a similar ideology and is brimming with charm, whereas Hugo is slow moving and lacking in excitement.  When life is clockwork we're in need of adventure, yet Hugo just isn't the thrill ride it should be and instead relies on an overblown message.

Another major problem is audience.  Unlike much of Scorsese's output this is a family film, though it probably won't entertain anyone.  The plot hinges on children outsmarting adults, but most kids will be bored by the slow pace and lack of action.  For adults, this is just another tale of a lonely boy in need of a friend.  It's a visual feast and the dogs are incredibly cute but as much as Scorsese parallels film-making with magic, the aesthetics are just an illusion for a fairly dull narrative.