Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Light and Magic

Hugo is one of those movies that seems so good, you're almost afraid to watch. Will it be too sentimental, too preachy, too crass? How will they spoil it? SPOILER ALERT - They don't spoil it. It's just that good.

You many know the setup: Hugo is a young orphan who lives in the clockworks of a Parisian railway station in the 1930s. He maintains the clocks while living a hand-to-mouth existence, stealing food and springs and gears from a toyshop, while dodging the station policeman (Sascha Baron Cohen, doing Kevin Kline). One day, the toyshop owner (Ben Kingsley) catches him, and that changes everything.

The movie is visually beautiful, and also full of stuff. For example:

  • Light: Snowflakes and dust dance in light beams, and images are projected on screens
  • Machines: The station clock, the toys in the shop, and even the station police's leg brace are all gear-punk machines, not to mention the second act reveal of Hugo's marvelous machine
  • Movies and film preservation: In some ways, that is what this movie is all about
  • Books: But just as much, it is about books. Hugo meets the shop owner's step-daughter, who introduces him to a bookseller, played by Christopher Lee. Both books and movies represent adventure and -
  • Magic: Maybe that's what the movie is about, the combination of mechanics, sleight-of-hand and wonderment that is magic.
Plus all kinds of fun: Salvadore Dali sketching James Joyce in the station cafe while Django Reinhardt plays as the camera swoops past, a few romances, mysterious statues of frozen men, and so on. Not to mention that it was in 3-D - not mentioned because we saw it on a regular flatscreen.

Director Martin Scorsese really hit this one on the head. My only complaint would be that it was too full of stuff, too many themes, schemes and dreams. But I can live with that.

I'd like to single out, among a great cast, young Asa Butterfield as Hugo, and Chloë Grace Moretz as his friend, both fine child actors.

In conclusion, I kind of wish Tin-Tin had been this movie instead.

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