By Robert Moyes
After being endlessly chivvied first by his wife and, later, by his young daughter, legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas) eventually surrendered: he agreed to forsake
the gangster-ridden mean streets of New York and travel back in time to 1930s Paris by way of adapting a beloved and very clever children’s book named The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Now named simply Hugo, the result is nothing less than marvelous: the lapidary filmmaking has a clockwork elegance, the set design is gorgeous, the actors fully inhabit this nostalgic but unsentimental world, and the tacky gimmick of 3D has finally redeemed. Best of all, Scorsese has fashioned a whimsical yet splendid love letter to the world of cinema.
The story features a 12-year-old orphan named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) who literally lives in the walls of a Paris train station and secretly maintains all the massive clocks that look down on the teeming crowds. His father (Jude Law) had been a talented clockmaker, and Hugo has kept an antique clockwork automaton that he and his dad had been trying to restore. Lonely Hugo believes that bringing the automaton back to life will somehow reconnect him with the spirit of his dead father. To aid his repairs Hugo has been pilfering tiny gears and other bits of metal junk from an embittered toyshop owner named Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), who eventually catches him red-handed and torments him for days after. To add to Hugo’s misery, the station has a remorseless security guard (an eccentric and highly amusing Sacha Baron Cohen) who, accompanied by a large-fanged Doberman, hunts down orphans and packs them off to the orphanage with sadistic glee.
Hugo slowly builds up a relationship with the toyshop owner, at the same time as he is befriended by the man’s goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass). The train station becomes the young couple’s playground, and we take in amusing characters such as a quintet of musicians playing gypsy jazz, and an older man whose attempts to court a widow are continually frustrated by her bad-tempered dachshund. Eventually Hugo and Isabelle discover a huge secret about Papa Georges’ past that explains his overwhelming sadness — a secret that not only involves Hugo’s automaton but also relates back to the earliest days of cinema. The film’s third act plausibly resolves all the personal angst of its characters while allowing Scorsese — a film scholar possibly without equal — to revel in the history of an art form that, right from the start, cast a dream-like spell on the whole world. M
Hugo ★ ★ ★v
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Ben Kingsley, Jude Law
PG – 127 minutes
Continues at the Odeon
Paris is wonderfully evoked by one of the licorice liqueurs such as Pernod. Always tasty, sure, but more of a summertime libation. So let’s head southeast to the Rhone region for a mouth-filling red that will go superbly with a hearty dinner designed to ward off winter’s chill. The Vacqueyras “Les Christins” is earthy yet elegant, with a core of dark-berry fruit lifted with those herbal notes that give these wines their special charm. Not cheap at $27, but a bargain amongst its pricey Rhone peers. Salut!