Hugo & The Exhilaration Of A Story Well ToldMonday, December 12, 2011
A few weeks ago I took my granddaughters and wife to see Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. We saw it in 3-D downtown. We saw it in my least favourite location which is the Scotiabank Theatre. From the moment you enter this place and note the uniforms of the employees which resemble a slightly upscale MadDonald’s you know that the experience will be less than pleasant. The smell of food, particularly pop-corn, French fries and hamburgers is enough to make me feel like not eating anything.
When you sit down you are bombarded with ads with but a few seconds between them. Silence is to be avoided at all costs. Every one of the ads finishes with, “Enjoy the show.” It reminds me of watching so many young people unable to sit still for even a minute without checking the screens of their digital wonder phones. Any space between any even has to be filled with some sort of activity or sound.
This less that stellar experience reminds me of my friend in Memphis who refuses to go to the movies because they don’t serve martinis.
Once you eyes and ears are assaulted with the clips of blockbusters to come and you are left dazed, you can almost settle to watch the movie.
From here on, Hugo was a delight and I would say that the 3-D experience is a good one.
I can remember looking at the faces of the people as the lights turned on in what seems to be so long ago at the Stanley where I had taken my two daughters to see Star Wars. They were all wowed. All had smiles.
The exhilaration of Hugo to me was a bit beyond that. It felt like watching Douglas Fairbanks Jr play twins in the Corsican Brothers. I saw it as a boy of 8 or 9. I was mesmerized by the fact that when one suffered the twin did too even if he were somewhere else. There is a vision in my head of Fairbanks with a smile on his face on his fast galloping horse.
It was the kind of film that when as soon as I arrived home I took out my wooden sword and ran around swinging it and slashing it in the garden. There was that wonder of discovery in Hugo. But there was more. Without any announcement, Scorsese sneaks in stop motion is done. Stop motion was invented in the 19th century by Georges Méliès, played by Ben Kingsley in Hugo and few would know that the technique is particularly important in the sequels to Star Wars.
As I tell many of my friends, Hugo, the film contains a couple of kisses in the cheek, one kiss in the lips, no cleavage, no sex, no real violence and any deaths seen are purely accidental. And yet by today’s standards such a film should be laughed at. But it entertained both my granddaughter, 9 and 14 without boring in the least the two accompanying adults.
My friend Ian Bateson says that the most important talent in the 21st century is a talent that is not in any danger of becoming obsolete. This is the talent for telling a story. Scorsese’s Hugo, based on the beautiful book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and with screenplay by John Logan satisfied all of us because it indeed tells a story in which the special effects, as wonderful as they may be (and they are) are secondary to the story.
There are all sorts of hidden stories within the stories. The little boy Hugo has a dream in which a train is unable to stop and smashes through the end of the platform, through the massive entrance to the train station and out the station’s elevated windows. This indeed happened at the Gare Montparnasse in 1895.
I was lucky to photograph director Martin Scorsese quite a few years ago and I would have never suspected that he had within him that talent to tell a story that would satisfy us all and leave us in wonder.