Monday, October 10, 2011

NYFF 2011: This is not a review of Hugo (2011) a work in progress (with a brief mention of Paradise Lost 3)

Richard Pena asked that the press coming to the work in progress screening of Martin Scorsese's film Hugo not review the film. I don't know if that means I can't tell you that I think the film is quite good.

Actually while I am on some level press, I was there as a person. I paid for a ticket (actually 2) and I went for me. To that end I'm going to say some personal words on the film after making a few comments about the rest of the day so this seems more like a personal journal entry.

What follows is not a real's a journal entry.

After several complications I managed to get into the city, and while I did manage to hook up briefly with Mondocurry and Shigeko, I had to pass the chance to have dinner with them since the people who were going to take the Paradise Lost 3 tickets backed out. I was going to have to try and sell them.

The sale failed since there was no standby line since, I was told the screening didn't sell out. I decided the just go for it and go, briefly to the screening before cutting over to the super secret sneak preview of a work in progress. However when I went to go in I found the lobby over run by PR people who were more intent on letting the press snap pictures rather than letting me cross to get into the theater. I gave up and then walked over to Avery Fisher Hall to wait for the film.

(When I was heading home I spoke with someone who stayed and saw Paradise Lost 3, and they liked it a great deal, though they didn't like the PR stuff that was going on)

While standing around by the fountain I got into a conversation with a couple of people who said the surprise was broken hours before when several celebrities attending the screening tweeted what they were going to see...the new Scorsese film Hugo.

The screening was only going to have seating in the orchestra, the balconies where draped off with black curtains.

Security was tight since there was at least 15 guys with night vision goggles all around the auditorium.

Talking to people the general feeling at the start was disappointment. The adults felt the choice of Hugo was weak since it's a kids film. Many people wanted a grittier film while a few others hated the thought of a 3D film.

As the center section, which was full of families (clearly someone was talking about what the film was otherwise there wouldn't have been kids) and people related to the production, filled we sat around for an extra 15 minutes (NYFF screenings almost never start late). Then the lights went down and Richard Pena came out to talk briefly before introducing Martin Scorsese to a standing ovation.

We were told the effects were incomplete, the color unmatched, some of the 3D was undone and the score incomplete. We were then told to enjoy.

Hugo is the big screen adaption of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It concerns Hugo who lives in the walls of a Paris railway station keeping the clocks running and trying to fix a automaton that his father had brought home before he died. Hugo then runs a foul of Georges, a man who runs a toy shop in the station. It seems Hugo has been stealing wind up toys in order to fix the automaton.

From that simple beginning the film spins out into a mystery that encompasses the early days of film.

I'm not going to say too much about the film. It's a quite good and is perfect Scorsese material since it deals with one of his passions, early movies. Its a beautiful film with some stunning set pieces and some real movie magic. (There was happy applause at the end even from the people who didn't want to see it)

The film has some great performances, including an intriguing one by Sacha Baron Cohen as the Railway Inspector who is always on the hunt for orphans like Hugo. While never really menacing (which he should be) he is amusing. Frankly, it's clear that if anyone should ever make a film about the late great Peter Cook, Cohen is the man to play Cook since he seems to be channeling him through the whole film.

I should also like to say that Christopher Lee is wonderful in an important cameo as a bookseller who befriends Hugo.

I like the film and think you'll like it when it's done and in theaters ina few months.

Okay, now, there is something I have to say because the film is being looked at as an indication as to whether the 3D craze is doomed or not... Actually it's a question I have to ask...

...Why is this film in 3D?

Yes it looks better than most. Yes Scorsese uses it to great effect in a couple of shots, but did this film NEED to be in 3D?

I'm not so sure. Actually, I'm not so sure that some of this will work in 2D because there are some shots which have been clearly constructed to look great in 3D but which will look off in 2D (shades of Christopher Lee's I, Monster, which was shot in 3D and looks really odd flat.)

Is this going to be proof that 3D has a viable life beyond certain films? I don't think so. The film is still dark thanks to the glasses and while in a masters hands like Scorsese there isn't the head aches and eye strain (he knew how to shoot the film to avoid that) the story and plot aren't really enhanced by the process.

I'm sorry for my money there have only been 2 films that really work in 3D Caves of Forgotten Dreams and Pina. Both films work in 3D and in 2D with 3D genuinely adding to the experience. Hugo doesn't need it, the story fine without it and it's not improved by it (though I will say the chance to see Melies films in 3D is way cool.)

That's not a review of the film but of the process.

If you want a review of the film you'll have to wait until it comes out so I can say this is very good little film, that will move you and bring a happy tear or two to your eye.

Okay bed time.

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