Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 2011. Paramount Pictures, GK Films, Infinitum Nihil. Screenplay by John Logan, based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Cinematography by Robert Richardson. Produced by Johnny Depp, Tim Headington, Graham King, Martin Scorsese. Music by Howard Shore. Production Design by Dante Ferretti. Costume Design by Sandy Powell. Film Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker. Academy Awards 2011. American Film Institute 2011. Boston Film Critics Awards 2011. Cannes Film Festival 2011. Golden Globe Awards 2011. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2011. National Board of Review Awards 2011. New York Film Critics Awards 2011. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2011. Toronto International Film Festival 2011. Washington Film Critics Awards 2011.
Tribute is paid to the early days of cinema in this enjoyable charmer by Martin Scorsese. Asa Butterfield is wonderful as an orphan boy who lives in a Parisian train station, fixing the clocks that his uncle used to work on before he disappeared, and staying alive by stealing. His thievery makes him the constantly elusive target of the stuck-up station guard (Sacha Baron Cohen) who patrols the grounds with a careful eye, and eventually gets him into trouble with a shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley) whose young goddaughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) becomes the boy’s new friend. Butterfield has no idea that Kingsley is actually Georges Melies, the maker of gorgeous science-fiction films in the silent era who, thanks to a combination of world events and personal bad luck, is by this point in the 1930s completely forgotten and his films lost. Connections will be made and all will be revealed, particularly since Butterfield’s one remaining possession from his late, beloved father (Jude Law) is an automaton connected to the past of all parties involved. The film’s wondrous production design and sweet sense of nostalgia do wonders for the experience here, as by the time we get to the exploration of Melies and his world we can truly sense Scorsese swimming in his passion for film. Delicate romance is not something he pulls quite as well, however, as the man who makes us cringe at the sight of violent gangsters doesn’t quite know what to do with the burgeoning affection between Baron Cohen and the adorable flower seller (Emily Mortimer) whom he is too frightened to connect with (he did doomed romance far better in The Age Of Innocence). The first third of the film feels like narrative stalling as a way of keeping us from getting to the central reveal too soon, but overall it is a pleasant experience with its heart firmly in the right place at all times. Helen McCrory is a standout as Melies’ loving wife, and the recreations of filming the artist’s adventures are the film’s best moments next to the stock footage itself.