“Hugo,” Martin Scorsese and Paramount’s big family friendly entry for Thanksgiving, was the surprise screening at the New York Film Festival. Billed as a work in progress, “Hugo” is still being tinkered with. But it’s pretty much done, and nearly all of the local entertainment press saw it last night. Avery Fisher Hall had to be fitted overnight with new 3D technology to accommodate the screening, too. And Scorsese showed up and introduced the film.Most of his staff was there including Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who’s still eying “Hugo” with one hand on her mouse.
So what’s the story? Based on the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” Hugo is about a boy in early 20th century France who stumbles on an old, revered filmmaker (Ben Kingsley, playing a version of real life director Georges Melies.). In the process he learns about Georges’s life and his own, especially that of his own deceased father (Jude Law). “Hugo” is stuffed with supporting roles and cameos, the most interesting of which go to Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Michael Stuhlbarg and Frances de la Tour. Johnny Depp is listed as a producer, but rumors of a cameo by him are said to be false.
Scorsese himself, of course, makes a Hitchcock like appearance. He does a few things with “Hugo”–it’s his first family film, but not necessarily for children. Also, he gets to explore his passion for film preservation and film history by making Georges a fictional version of his own many heroes. Scorsese also gets to re-enact famous film scenes, like Harold Lloyd dangling from the clock hands.
And in fact, “Hugo” is all about clocks. Much of it takes place in a grand Paris train station underneath a clock tower. Using really terrific 3D process, Scorsese goes inside the whirring gears of the place. That’s what sets “Hugo” apart. That, and of course, the fantastic archival film clips he uses for Georges’s retrospectives. You know that Scorsese is just over the moon introducing this stuff to new generations.
“Hugo” opens on November 23rd with a lavish Howard Shore score, and a huge promo push. It’s unlike any Martin Scorsese movie you’ve ever seen. No one gets whacked. But there are wonderful long shots. It’s the work of a master craftsman who loves film. It shows.