Hugo (US, 2011)

Cinema of attractions

Many would assume a ‘family film’ from Martin Scorsese would involve the mafia however his first foray into 3D is a film for ‘all the family’. I’m not a fan of 3D, and Scorsese hasn’t convinced me, but at least its use is integral to the film. By focusing on a pioneer of early cinema, were the thrill – and shock – of the new drew audiences, it makes sense to try and mimic the excitement felt at the time with 3D.

Until the two cameras used to create stereoscopic vision are small enough to be placed as close together as eyes, the 3D perspective will never truly convince. In addition, I dislike the way in which objects out of focus, in the foreground, appear like ghosts. I also find 3D simply a distraction that draws attention to the ‘fourth wall’, which is antithetical to most cinema’s realism. Let Godard make a 3D movie! Maybe not…

As noted, Scorsese’s use of 3D works to give us a sense of wonder, similar to that experienced in the pioneering days of cinema. I did get a sense of wonder, but it was primarily from Dante Ferretti’s set design, recreating a 1930s Paris mainline station. Costumes are also great: Sandy Powell. Well, $170m was reportedly spent on the film. It’s getting rave ratings on the imdb.com but lukewarm box office in North America, which is disappointing as it’s probably going to be the best movie for the ‘holiday season’.

I’m not going to dwell on the narrative as I’d managed to avoid who the film’s about and so it was quite magical to suddenly realise – well into the film- where it was going. Excellent performances from a stellar cast, with Sacha Baron Cohen’s Station Inspector taking the plaudits, add to the pleasures of this excellent film.

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