dinsdag 3 juli 2012

In one word? Magical!

I'm kind of a cinephile. It's why I wanted to study movies and television and I'm amazed by how far those media have come in the past couple of 100 years. That's right, movies have been around for more than hundred years. But you don't really get to see the classics that much, nor do they get that much attention. So - to me - it's amazing when a famous director shares his love for movies and finds a way to reach millions of viewers. Does anybody know where I'm going with this? Of course, Martin Scorsese's HUGO! I love this movie and I'll try to make it clear in this review. I hope you enjoy it, because it's a really good movie that I think everyone should see.

The stories

Hugo Cabaret is the main character in the beginning of the movie. He is twelve year old boy living in Paris of 1931 in the walls of the station. His father, a widower, was a clockmaker working in his own shop as well as a museum. But a fire in the museum killed him and Hugo was taken to the station to work on the clocks there by his uncle. But his uncle soon leaves and Hugo is left all alone, stealing food and drinks, working on his own while staying out of the hands of the station inspector. When he is not working on the clocks, he desperately tries to fix an automaton that his father found at the museum. Hugo believes that that automaton, that looks like a person, has a final message for him from his dad. In order to fix it, he steals parts from the toy store owner 'Papa Georges'. But he gets caught and Papa Georges makes him hand over the notebook with notes about how to fix the automaton and Georges says he will burn it. Hugo can't let that happen and follows him to his home. There he meets Isabelle, an orphan from about his age and Papa Georges' goddaughter. Hugo wants her to get the book back. At first she doesn't want to help without him telling her the big secret, but she sees how much it means to him and agrees the help. The next day, with Isabelle's help, Hugo convinces Georges to give it back. But he will have to work for it. He also learns magic tricks from him and Isabelle and Hugo grow closer together, until one day he finds the heart-shaped key that will fit his automaton around her neck. He takes her to where he lives - in the walls - and shows the automaton. Isabelle is crazy for adventure - 'like in the books' - so they use the key. The automaton starts to draw a picture... of the man of the moon with a rocket in his eye socket. The same movie Hugo's father once described to him. To their bigger suprise, the drawing gets signed by 'Georges Méliès'. That's Papa Georges full name! And that's how the second adventure, leading them to the past, really starts.

They bring the picture to Mama Jeanne and she gets very emotional, but also afraid because Georges can't find out. In order to hide this from him, she tells the children to get in a room and be really quiet. When they go looking in the room they find a box full of drawings, pictures and screenboards from Georges work. At that moment Papa Georges walks in and is very distraught. Hugo must leave, but this isn't the end for Isabelle and Hugo. They go to the book store and the owner recommends a film book. While they are debating the fact that Méliès' death is described in the book, they meet the writer, Rene Tabard. He brings them to a room full of props, a projecter, camera and the last film still remaining as far as they know from Méliès: Le voyage dans la Lune. The children are filled with wonder and convince him to come meet Méliès himself. Mama Jeanne wants to send him away at once, but after finding out that he has brought the movie with him, the curiousity gets the better of her. While watching the movie Georges walks in and finally opens up. About how he started as an illusionist and experimented with film. How succesful his business was and how World War One destroyed it all. Nothing of his creations still exist and that's what also destroyed him. Hugo knows that this isn't true, because he has the automaton. So he quickly runs home to get it, but is cought by the station inspector. At that moment Méliès turns up and takes Hugo in his care. The movie ends with a ceremony that pays tribute to Méliès his creations, stating that by that time more than 80 films of his have been recovered and restored (out of the 531).

What started out as a sweet and innocent story about a boy living in a train station, turns into a beaufitul homage to the history of moving pictures. For those who know more about it, there are specific references to some of the first movies ever made. One of the things I love about it. But there is so much more. Like the great acting skills, especially by Chloe Grace Moretz and Ben Kingsley. Chloe's Isabelle is very touching and inspiring, because she sees the adventure in everything (and yes, she does make you think of Audrey Hepburn from time to time). There's an interesting dynamic between books and movies and so many other themes, that I can go in to detail about. But that would simply take to long, so I'll focus on the award winning part of the movie: The technology.

From the first experiments to the latest technology

When movies have some kind of extra message or meaning in.behind them (either in general or just to me) that makes me love them that much more. All About Steve is one of them and Hugo is another. The beautiful thought behind this movie is in bringing together the history of movies in one film. It's not the entire history, but the beginning. Hugo focuses on the story of Méliès. A man who started as an illusionist and began using film after a while. During my studies I have learned about him and I saw some of his movies. This movie not only tells his story, but also shows his (short) movies in the picture.... in 3D! Scorsese actually found a way to turn some of the very first movies EVER into 3D picture. Talk about bringing things to a full circle. He also manipulated some of the material to put Helen McCrory (who plays Georges' wife/Jeanne in the movie) in the 'old' footage. One of the wonderful things about this movie is also the fact that movies back then were shot in black and white. Later they would paint them frame by frame (yes, that is also an actual line from the movie). It brings it more to life, but it's never as good as the real thing. Because Scorsese focused on the life of Méliès and goes back to the beginning through flashbacks, we also get a (fake) look behind the scenes of one of the first fantastical filmmakers of all time. And this just looks magical. All the colours are so bright and festive and it's seriously a treat. Like you're at a carnaval or a spectaculair theatre show, while actually being in the movies. And yes, the 3D-effect totally helps in this case.

That what's it made for

I have seen my share of 3D movies. And more than not, I found it completely pointless. It's just a way of getting the audience to spend more money on movies and getting them away from the tv/computer screen where people can watch movies illegally - because you can't get 3D at home. I've seen Step Up 3D, where it didn't add anything... and that's usually the case.
But then there's Hugo...In the first minute I knew this was better. Because in those minutes you already feel like you're in the movie. And that's what this technology was invented for. The way the camera flies over Paris and towards the station, you feel like you're doing it. For real! So it's no suprise that Hugo took home the five Oscars for Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Art Direction and Visual Effect, because they all make this experience happen. It's so well deserved. And I just realized I wrote it now, but seeing this movie it's not just seeing a movie. It goes back to the wonder of cinema: experiencing the story, instead of simply watching. That's the way it was intended a centennial ago and that's what Scorsese brought back. Hugo truly is a masterpiece with no equal.

EYE Film Institute Netherlands
The first time I came across this movie was at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. Unfortunatly it was already sold out, so later I went with my uncle. It was his first 3D movie, and let me tell you, it's probably the best way to start with this movie (as I explained above). But of course this is a movie you can watch over and over, especially if you love movies and it's history. So when I got a chance to go to a special 'Magical Méliès night' at the new EYE Film Insitute Netherlands in Amsterdam, I took it!

This night truly was magical, because just as about 100 years ago, we got to watch two of Méliès's restored films: Le voyage dans la Lune (1902) and Les quatre cent farces de diable (1906). Of this last one, Scorsese actually used 30 seconds in the movie itself of EYE's own collection. That's pretty cool! And even better was that we got to experience it the way that the audience did back them: with live piano music. That was so amazing. The music was really beautiful and to see a movie like that, was something you don't get to do everyday. We also got an introduction by Jan Doense, a fantastical film expert, which was both interesting and fun. One of the fun facts? Méliès was half Dutch! Who knew right? Well, apparently it's on Wikipedia, so that means everybody. But still a nice fun fact. All in all, this was a night to remember, or in one word: magical!

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