Hugo (2011)

A charming take on cinema, childhood, legends, if overly cloying at times. Watching it in 2D years after its release stings a little, as much of the film was very clearly made for 3D, and it’s fascinating that Scorsese chose to go in that direction. What’s less surprising is why he chose to adapt a book about a child watching stories among people play out from on high, absorbed by imagination and fantastic worlds, and getting to interact with a legend of cinema.

The fictitious take on the very real Georges Méliès’ life is strange, and by the ending feels mildly offputting. Paying tribute to the man is one thing, working some alternate history around him is one thing, but the weight of what the film does with him, and how far it veers off history, well it feels odd, and not in the very clearly designed way that something like Tarantino’s departures from history do.

Scorsese handles the physical comedy and wonder of his world well, but characters laboriously droning on and on about the theme of finding one’s purpose in life gets very old very quickly. Still, the use of clockwork iconography in tandem with that works well enough, apart from a literal heart-shaped key. It’s mostly a charming little take on the magic of cinema, but definitely oversteps at times. Three gears, and a spool of film.

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