Hugo - DVD Review

'a delightful caper, an individual journey of investigation and discovery, filled with a joie de vivre which seems quite becoming of a director usually so at home on the mean streets of any given city'

Martin Scorsese's family film of many an Oscar nomination, fans of early silent cinema will see what Hugo is building up to fairly early doors. Thankfully, there's no lessening of the impact because of this. Hugo is a delightful caper, an individual journey of investigation and discovery, filled with a joie de vivre which seems quite becoming of a director usually so at home on the mean streets of any given city. It taps somewhat into the zeitgeist by presenting a mixture of fact and fiction and has the good sense to do so in a world that, if not straight fantasy, at least clearly has some fantastical elements.

Scorsese's shooting style, for 3D in the cinemas, loses little on the port over to standard flat-screen DVD rendering. Whereas in other films the shots clearly included solely to show off the 3D stick out greatly on DVD (the medium's biggest problem: these shots offer nothing on home screens and show a dedication to medium expectations over and above artistic design), Scorsese's seem to integrate much more smoothly. The extended shots of the camera moving through the Parisian station are perhaps the sole exception. Beautiful though they are, they feel too long and the pace noticeable grinds to a halt whenever we are taken on an adventure-booth-alike ride through hidden pipework and conclave platforms.

The leads taking us through this journey are, by and large, sublime, although the scripting, particularly for Chloƫ Grace Moretz' Isabelle could have been polished. 'Be steadfast', she tells Hugo (Asa Butterfield) at one point, presumably during a moment when her split personality of Captain Nemo was taking control. The screenplay from John Logan does burble somewhat elsewhere too. 'Why would your key fit into my father's machine?', Hugo asks at one point, reading directly from the first draft of some faux-mystery TV advertisement, promoting perhaps lost Inca chocolate, or Magnums in the rainforest.

But past all that (and the stilted annoyance of Sacha Baron Cohen's inspector) there's a piece here with real heart, unashamed to be sentimental, charming and intellectual. There's smile-inducing cameos and vintage looks at early cinema, interwoven with a plot children will find easy to care for. There's a romance for both film history and steampunk-alike idealisation, as well as no small nod to a bygone Paris of yesteryear where lost loves and passions mix with two cheeky scamps and a comedy Doberman.




Look further...

For those inspired by some of Hugo's content, Anomalous Material presents their 10 Best Silent Movies.

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