Hugo

‘Hugo’, Martin Scorsese’s 3D masterpiece finally found distributors for its Indian release, or the dealers of the print decided to ship the can to India as an afterthought. Be that as it may, our (read: movie buffs and patrons of Scorsese) hitherto disappointed selves were relieved to learn that the film was on the Bangalore screens this week. The movie, we decided, with its feeble presence in a handful of multiplexes in the city could be gone before we realized. Sunday’s dash to the theater was inevitable and the rush was warranted, expectedly. Like Clint Eastwood said, tomorrow is a promise to no one. Thus, in agreement with the million dollar baby maker, we caught the movie in the peak of the evening, lest we miss it while allowing ourselves a week-long blink.

Movies made with a lot of heart always emerge victorious. Well, almost. A greenie with the excitement of a kid getting to sit on the motorcycle for the first time, may craft his maiden venture with all sincerity, but if his hand missed that wee bit of deftness, the product may go down in history as a valiant effort at best. Karan Malhotra, who hijacked Bollywood’s mindspace for several months with heavy sound and fury preceding ‘Agneepath’s release, will tell you. Hugo, on the other hand, is by no means a product of plain ambition. It is backed by the most respected marquee names, not to forget the awesome visual appeal it had on audiences across geog raphies. Inspired by Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the movie virtually transports us to the Paris of the thirties. Dante Ferretti, the production designer salvaged much of the pride for the film which had secured no less than eleven Oscar nominations, by successfully claiming the golden statuette. The train station, the clocks, the works, the inside view of the mechanism – it’s history re-created alright. The movie, in 3D, brings depth to the characters literally. Like Scorsese says “The actors slightest move, the slightest intention is picked up much more precisely”. Which brings us to the man, and his movie.

Scorsese’s films have always been about technique and narration. It’s little wonder that the director was ranked among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time, in 2007. Having gifted generations with cult classics like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Aviator and The Departed, – all gritty tales of from America including those of its mobdom, a biopic of an eccentric pilot, a boxer’s life story, a story of an ultimately deranged cabbie – it was a departure of sorts for Martin with ‘Hugo’. The movie tells us the story of a young ‘un who goes great lengths to unearth the message he believes his father had left for him, in an automaton he had with him at his museum. The director’s gamble has apparently paid off, with the Golden Globes crowning him with what the Oscars didn’t.

Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is taken away by his uncle, an alcoholic watchmaker responsible for maintaining the clocks in the Paris train station, after his father (Jude Law), an expert clock maker in Paris, dies in a museum fire. Of his father’s many possessions, Hugo is particularly fond of the broken mechanical man or an automaton and is keen on repairing it, with the firm belief that the machine has some message to him from his father. In the process of fixing it, he is caught by a toy store owner, Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley) for stealing parts from his shop. Georges confiscates his notebook which has the drawings and notes to fix the automaton, and commands Hugo to work for him to match the worth of the items he stole from his shop. Hugo is desperate to recover the notebook from the toy store owner, and as he finds his way to the latter’s house, he meets and befriends Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), Georges’s goddaughter.

The movie reveals its tributary character as it unfolds, reiterating the film maker’s love for the medium. Hugo introduces Isabelle to the movies, a novelty for the girl whose godfather had denied her the pleasure all these years. Papa Georges is really Georges Melles, an acclaimed film director whom Hugo’s father always used to talk about fondly. Georges’s ‘Voyage to the Moon’ happens to be the first film Hugo’s father ever watched, and assumes apparent significance to Hugo and Papa Georges in their lives.

A delightful accessory to the proceedings of the film is Scorsese’s re-creation of the ‘train arrival’ – a short film made by Lumiere Brothers in 1897 – which depicts the legend of the audience scattering with fright as the train approaches the station.

‘Hugo’ drips with honesty, and authenticity. Two thumbs-up to Martin Scorsese for thoroughly entertaining us with a story that isn’t his obvious forte, but handled with his usual and sure-shot bravura.

-Met