I'm not a film reviewer, and this isn't going to be a review. However, as art is a catalyst to expand your consciousness and find relevance in your world — where it may have not occurred before — then with “Hugo,” Martin Scorsese has created a celluloid Pieta that's showing on screens across the country. I'm still basking in the afterglow of this work.
My kid mentioned last night at Thanksgiving that he wanted to take me to see it. The last time he took me to see a film, it was after witnessing his old man's near emotional breakdown after viewing a DVD of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.”
"Hey Dad, how would you like to see some Nazis get their asses kicked?" he asked paternally as he put an arm reassuringly around my shoulders. "I would son, I'd like that very much" I replied. The next day, I was cleansing my mind while watching “Inglourious Basterds” — and yeah, the Nazis got theirs in a historical and theatrically relevant scene where the explosive quality that is old celluloid took out a theater full of the tuxedoed anti-Semites.
Like “Basterds,” “Hugo's” historical component revisits the roots of film, and in doing so makes an artistic statement that is unequalled in modern cinema. Metaphorically, it's as if Scorsese gave the Wright Brothers the keys to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Technology has never been more fundamental in telling a story of a bygone era where art's rebirth post-World War I bloomed for that brief time in Paris until it was snuffed out to the anthem of jackboots marching down the Champ de Elysees. Scorsese's use of 3D imagery weaves itself into the story, and is as much a part of this tale as the actors themselves.
The nascence of the film industry has finally been humanized, and much like the newsreels of history that we see on cable, there is a lesson to be learned that encompasses the humanity of the artist, thanks to a young boy, a young girl, a man that has turned away from his roots and a mechanism that is as much a metaphor for progress as was the monolith in Kubrick's “2001.” Unbelievable how a story in the hands of an artist like Scorsese can create a shift in an individual's understanding and appreciation of his world.
The movie industry to me has of late been all about superficiality. All too often, movies are tested to audiences who are let in free, recut and regurgitated so as not to offend those in Peoria who take in a movie to round out their dinner at Olive Garden, or as a prelude to knocking one out in the Buick. This being a time for family, I have to echo the words of my cousin Eric, who on another topic observed how an artist should “refuse to compromise to superficiality.” I got that, and Scorsese obviously got it too.
You'll never hear Scorsese remark how "rehearsals are for fags" or promote this film on Howard Stern while pitching slices of bologna to a stripper's backside. Scorsese need say nothing. Silence. “Hugo” catapults cinema to a higher art form, and much like witnessing the birth of a child or attending a U2 concert, it will stay with you for a long time.
I believe in movies again.