Martin Scorsese has long since booked his place in cinematic history with uncompromising, gritty thrillers such as Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and The Departed. Over the past decade though he's started to create films which have documented his love for classic cinema, be it The (excellent) Aviator, Gangs of New York and the almost Hitchcockian Shutter Island. Not to mention personally overseeing the restoration of the truly breathtaking 1948 Michael Powell film - often referred to as Scorsese's main influence for becoming a director - The Red Shoes.
However there's perhaps no better examples of Scorsese's undying love for cinema than in his first exploration in the family movie genre (yes, you read that right), with the adaptation of Brian Selznick's beautifully constructed novel, Hugo - full literary title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
The film tells the story of young Hugo (Asa Butterfield) as he dashes around a Paris railway station fixing and maintaining the clocks. All the while he starts to develop an unlikely friendship with an enigmatic and often disgruntled fixer of simple mechanical toys (Sir Ben Kingsley) and his articulate, over eager god daughter (Chloe Mortez). As the mystery of who the toy maker is unravels - cinephiles will squeal in delight - before the audience's eyes, Scorsese exposes us to perhaps one of the best tributes to cinema since Cinema Paradiso.
Everything about this film just made me smile from beginning to end. It was almost like watching a cinematic Christmas pantomime. The way the actors characterised themselves was wonderful. Asa Butterfield carried the film with such innocence and enthusiasm. While true legends of the big screen, Sir Ben Kingsley and a very much active Sir Christopher Lee added such weight to a film which was so visually stylised. so vivid and so technically brilliant.
Sacha Baron Cohen also deserves individual praise for his glorious tribute to stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton with his slapstick, almost Clouseau-esque, Inspector of the railway station. Outside of his theatrics he also had impeccable delivery with some genuinely funny one liners. Meanwhile Harry Potter stalwart, Helen McCrory was fabulous as Kinglsey's wife and, though underused, the likes of Michael Stuhlbarg, Ray Winstone, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer and Richard Griffiths just gave the film this extra layer of depth and class. And that's regrettably without even catching the film in 3D.
The amount of pain-staking effort Scorsese went to recreate the works of the truly ground-breaking auteur George Melies such as the Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) which features heavily throughout the film was truly magical - especially the scenes where the studio and his films were physically recreated. Also it goes without saying despite being such a sweet and at times tear-jerking story, the educational value this film has goes beyond some adults in the audience, never mind all the children. Not all 100% accurate (actually not even 30% of it is...), but hey never let facts get in the way of such a captivating story.
One can only imagine Martin Scorsese smiled just as profusely making Hugo as this blogger did watching it. The sights and sounds of 1930s Paris and silent French cinema are recreated beautifully in one of the most charming, hopeful, feel good films of the year. While a child's mind might wander at times, it'll certainly remind older members of the audience why we fell in love with movies, the cinema, the jaw-dropping imagination of not just directors, but true magicians of the big screen. Could be one for the ages, but if nothing else it's definitely one of the best films of 2011. Magical. Heart-warming. Glorious.
Hugo is in cinemas everywhere now.