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

Just Posted

Dominion Voting Systems, a Denver-based vendor, is under contract to supply voting machines for elections in San Francisco. (Kevin N. Hume/Examiner file)
Is San Francisco’s elections director impeding voting machine progress?

Open source technology could break up existing monopoly

The 49ers take on the Packers in Week 3 of the NFL season, before heading into a tough stretch of divisional opponents. (Courtesy San Francisco 49ers)
‘Good for Ball’ or ‘Bad for Ball’ — A Niners analysis

By Mychael Urban Special to The Examiner What’s the first thing that… Continue reading

Health experts praised Salesforce for keeping its Dreamforce conference at Moscone Center outdoors and on a small scale. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Happy birthday, Marc Benioff. Your company did the right thing

Salesforce kept Dreamforce small, which made all kinds of sense

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, pictured with Rose Pak in 2014, says the late Chinatown activist was “helping to guide the community away from the divisions, politically.”
Willie and Rose: How an alliance for the ages shaped SF

How the Mayor and Chinatown activist shaped San Francisco, then and now

The Grove in Golden Gate Park is maintained largely by those who remember San Francisco’s 20,000 AIDS victims.<ins> (Open Eye Pictures/New York Times)</ins>
Looking at COVID through the SF prism of AIDS

AIDS took 40 years to claim 700,000 lives. COVID surpassed that number in 21 months

Most Read