Courtesy photoWondrous vision: Asa Butterfield plays an orphan on a mission in “Hugo

Courtesy photoWondrous vision: Asa Butterfield plays an orphan on a mission in “Hugo

'Hugo' another Scorsese cinematic summit

Martin Scorsese approaches “Hugo,” his delightfully inventive adaptation of Brian Selznick’s elaborately illustrated children’s novel, with a profound sense of wonder, and the feeling is contagious.

Here, in the bittersweet saga of a clockmaker’s orphaned son who reconnects with his father through the earliest machinery of cinema, we find one of the director’s most personal stories to date, a love letter not only to his craft, but also to one of its earliest innovators, Georges Méliès.

A onetime stage magician who brought his wizardry to the screen, “Papa” Georges (played by Ben Kingsley) directed more than 500 films, revolutionizing special effects and cinematography, before his works were melted down by the French army to make boots for World War I soldiers.

His movies gone and his spirit broken, he sold toys in a Paris railway station until his death in 1938.

Scorsese could have made a very different movie based on Méliès’ remarkable and ultimately tragic life. But, taking his cues from Selznick’s fictionalized narrative, he eases us into the filmmaker’s world through his precarious friendship with Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), an orphan and petty thief who raids the old man’s toy cabinet for spare parts.

Hugo’s intentions are noble. After losing his mechanically minded father in a fire, he resolves to complete the restoration of a mysterious treasure — an automaton — that had captured the old man’s imagination.

All he needs are the proper tools, and for reasons initially unclear, Georges and his goddaughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) have them.

That’s just the starting point for the grand adventure that unfolds in “Hugo,” already hailed by another cinematic groundbreaker — James Cameron — as the finest application of 3-D technology ever committed to film.

High praise indeed, coming from the creator of “Avatar.” Whether or not it is overstated, “Hugo” is a bold, beautiful work of art, a vibrant rendering of 1930s Paris and a richly textured portrait whose subjects seem to jump off the screen.

Here, 3-D serves the story, not simply as a visual accoutrement, but also as a tribute to the sleight of hand that was Méliès’ genius.

“Hugo” is family-friendly, too, though it may be best appreciated by adults with a passion for cinema. For Hugo, a lonely fixer of broken machines and fractured souls, and Georges, the man he is unwittingly entrusted to save, movies are a healing and uniting force.

Scorsese’s unsubtle plea — that those movies be cherished and preserved — is as compelling as his aesthetic poetry.


MOVIE REVIEW
Hugo
★★★★
Starring Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz
Written by John Logan
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Rated PG
Running time 2 hours 7 minutes

artsentertainmentMovies

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A man holds a sign at a rally to commemorate the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside City Hall on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

"We are on the road to recover. We are on the road to building a stronger San Francisco. And that gives me hope for the future,” said Mayor London Breed at the news conference in Civic Center, San Francisco.  (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Main Public Library to reopen May 3

San Francisco’s Main Public Library will reopen with limited indoor service on… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Roger Marenco, president of operators union TWU Local 250-A, speaks at a news conference outside the Muni Kirkland Yard announcing Muni will not be increasing fares on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s union leader encourages riders to say ‘thank you’ to their Muni operators

A conversation with Roger Marenco, president of Transport Workers Union of America, Local 250A

Most Read