For me the rebirth of cinema in 3D, the moment when the technology met with art is not ‘Avatar‘ but Scorsese‘s ‘Hugo’. James Cameron‘s film validated the technology, brought it into the mainstream, and – of course – made a lot of money in the process. Hugo is in my opinion the first great film realized in this technology, taking a rather melodramatic story targeting the all family audiences and using 3D to amplify the visual effects, to create a world of dreams and fantasy – the material great films are made from. Based on the Paris of the 1920th it recreates the city on screen in a manner that is spectacular and sensitive at the same time, and populates it with characters who meld the qualities of fiction heroes and flesh and blood humans.  The complexity of the staging, the attention to the details, the pace of the action and of the moves of the camera, the world of objects who surround the heroes – all this get together in a charming visual experience. We have known many versions of Paris in art, some from books like (Victor) Hugo, some from photos like the ones of Brassai or Robert Doisneau, some from works of art like the paintings of the Impressionist era, now we have the Paris as imagined by Martin Scorsese.




Bringing George Melies into the story is a real touch of genius.This film is a love declaration for cinema, full of respect and quotes from famous movies. The comparison with the other big film about cinema in 2011 The Artist is immediate and makes us forget immediately the simplistic kiddish story. But the story itself has a quality that makes jealous the current Disney productions. This is real Disney stuff, the one that would not make Master Walt blush as would the majority if not all the scripts of the films made by the studios who inherited his name. This is the Disney of Fantasia, the one that made me dream and cross the barriers of imagination.

George Melies actually did break with the studios and retired from film making before the war, and many of his films were destroyed to be used to manufacture military materials. He had a shop in the Montparnasse train station, and even if a round-eyed boy who was making the clocks turn in the station did not really exist – the imagined part of the story is as good and as moving as the real one.


(video source VISO Trailers)


A film like Hugo does not necessarily excel in acting, although big names show up in the cast and do more than a decent job. Ben Kingsley adds George Melies to the gallery of the great personalities he brought to life in his screen career, and Sacha Baron Cohen proves that he can be funny also out of his usual stand-up comedy style. It is however the complex and beautiful world in which the characters move will be the one that we shall remember from this film.