The Art Of Film As Therapy

The past few years have been pretty miserable when it comes to deaths and tragedies. Worst of all, I lost my dad. When it happened I had trouble crying and getting it out. I was sort of shocked and numb. It hurt like crazy. After his funeral, pain came prancing in, hitting below the belt, striking me stupid for a few minutes of sobbing. Every few months there it is, but time marches on. We get further from one death and closer to another. Life can be woeful, Loyal Reader.

All of this matters much in the matters surrounding my HUGO review. The movie tapped into themes that tapped into me. It made me feel mournful.

I think Martin Scorsese is an incredibly gifted filmmaker. I enjoy all of his movies (I even enjoyed GANGS OF NEW YORK, and that one didn’t do so well critically). In making a family film, what it lacks in brutal violence and a criminal element, it makes up for it in whimsy, heart, a sweet history lesson on early cinema, and some marvelous filmmaking. The film is a beautiful thing. It just might end up in my top 10 of all time.


(Automaton love)

Its plot (I’ll spare you the breakdown) is a series of interesting puzzles, but there’s real depth in the interaction between the characters. There’s a morose undercurrent – Hugo’s father is consumed by a ball of fire, his alcoholic Uncle dies and is found in the river, the police officer’s crippling war injury, add in film pioneer, Georges Melies’ fall from grace (and then even more sentimental – his restoration to greatness) – that give the movie its sad soul.

There’s lots here about loss and sorrow and regret. Little Hugo’s quest to figure out who his father was and the way the repercussions of his actions enable relationships that essentially make a few very sad lives, very happy ones, drives the film through a series of fantastical mysteries involving an automaton and film theory books and teeny tiny sprockets and springs. It warmed me and trust me, Loyal Reader, I’m not the type to fall for sentimental bull, feeling has to be grounded to work, it has to be a perfect storm of acting, directing, score, everything just comes together – most of these movies simply can’t pull it off. HUGO’s got it in spades.

We saw it in 3D. Scorsese uses the process thoughtfully. Things do not jump out at us, but scenes are constructed in way that they become physically deeper. Paired with fast moving tracking shots, like the opener that takes us through a train station, it’s a pretty cool effect. I really dug it. There are a few scenes, one with paper flying about, that look great in 3D. It’s incredible how in telling a tale about the world’s first special effects artiste, Scorsese manipulates 3D as if it’s an integral part of the film going experience. It’s actually worth the few extra bucks.

If you can’t catch it in 3D it is still totally worth watching. The movie looks great in either format.

In any case, I loved HUGO. It stirred me up. Only truly special films have that kind of power.

If you haven’t seen it, get out there! It’s definitely one for the big screen.

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3 Responses to “The Art Of Film As Therapy”

  1. It worth a read, too. It’s probably a 5th grade level reader, but I agree that there are themes in there that are pretty heavy and human. The author tells much of the story through black and white sketches to great affect. I haven’t seen the movie because I was afraid it would ruin a great book, but now I’m all in.

  2. Sorry to hear about your dad. Handling that kind of loss isn’t easy. Nice review, really makes me want to see the movie. I didn’t know anything about it really, but was already curious. I’d buy a ticket to watch a Scorcese film about sandpaper.

  3. I haven’t seen the book. I’ll look for it at B&N. The movie rocked my socks!

    I wasn’t excited about it. I didn’t want to see a family film from the director of GOODFELLAS. He pulled it off. It’s worth watching with or without a kid.

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