Friday, November 25, 2011
You Go, Marty Scorsese!
Film Review by Regina Robbins
There are many reasons that Hugo is a major film event. The book on which it is based, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, caused a sensation upon its release four years ago: it’s a whopping 526 pages which combine text and pictures, and won the Caldecott Medal for illustration, never before awarded to a novel. Because of this unique form, and because its plot is intimately tied to the history of cinema itself, the book practically cries out to be filmed. So it’s obvious why Martin Scorsese, best known for his tableaux of New York’s underbelly, was attracted to the project. The 69-year-old auteur makes his “family film” debut with a movie one might have expected to be made by Tim Burton or Jean-Pierre Jeunet (or, God help us, Robert Zemeckis). Just to make things even more mind-blowing, he shot in 3D.
Full disclosure: I haven’t read Selznick’s book. However, I do have more than a passing familiarity with the work of early filmmakers. For people who, like Martin Scorsese and myself, get emotional about the history of movies, Hugo will be irresistible. Clips and images from French and American silent classics (including The General, Safety Last, and most importantly A Trip to the Moon) appear throughout; those who recognize them will be delighted, and those who don’t will be charmed by the simplicity and playfulness of these early explorations of cinema. A flashback sequence, in which we see reconstructed the making of some of the earliest science-fiction films, takes Hugo, previously an appealing, well-made entertainment, to another level.
Regina Robbins is a theater and film artist. She has worked with several New York City stage companies, including Manhattan Theatre Source, the Looking Glass Theatre, UTC #61, and the Directors Company, and her films have been screened at venues in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Chicago, Asheville, and NYC. She also teaches kids how to write and perform, and is a four-time champion on the game show Jeopardy!