Skip to main content

Going to the Movies

We went to a couple of movies this week. First up was Tintin, about which there is not much to say. It is a wonderful rollicking escapist flick. It is great fun and thankfully doesn't try to be anything other than it is. The animation is superb, and all the little Herge details are there -f'rinstance: as a thwarted petrol head I have always enjoyed the fact that the cars, motorbikes and planes  in the books are real ones, drawn with such draughtsmanlike accuracy that you can tell their make, model and year. And here, parked in the streets of Peter Jackson/Herge 's Paris were wonderful examples of classic Peugeots and Citroens and Rolls Royces, a small example of how perfectly the film captures the look and, more impotantly, "feel" of the books 

Then, last night, seeing as we had the 3-D glasses, we went to Hugo, Martin Scorcese's adaptation of the book The Inventions of Hugo. Like Tintin, it is largely computer generated, and it is set in Paris, but there the comparison ends. This might be based on a children's book but it is anything but a children's film. It is a demanding work of art, which, like all great art, requires the engagement of the viewer's emotional, intellectual and aesthetic capacities. The story is about a young orphan boy living in a strange world built inside the walls of a Paris railway station. It is a beautiful film in every sense of the word and I found it profoundly stimulating and moving. There is a superb cast, and the acting is as good as you will ever see: look, for example, at the pathos and vulnerability Sacha Baron Cohen brings to the character of the villainous station inspector; or, the reaction shots of Asa Butterfield in the title role in the last minutes of the film. How does a child portray such subtle and complex emotions with such precision and skill? By being directed by a genius, that's how.

For this is a work of one of the greats of the modern cinema, who, through the application of modern technology, is able to surpass limits and make precisely the film he wanted to. It's a much overused word, but I suspect this film may well prove to be Scorcese's masterpiece. Part of the film is about the changes wrought by a new art form, the movies, and here Scorcese has used a new development in the art form, 3-D, not just to enhance the sort of films he has made before, but to move the medium in a whole new direction.

It is a film about
- Loneliness and the transforming power of love. Every single one of the characters we encounter in the film is lonely; each in their own way isolated by events outside of their control. Each ends the film transformed by giving and/or receiving love
-The movies. This is a loving tribute by Scorcese to the art form he has given his life to. Embedded within it is a small potted history of the invention of cinema and a biopic of Georges Melie, pioneer filmmaker and the father of special effects. There are tributes too numerous to mention to classic silent films.
-Our relationship to machinery and the idea of the universe as a machine.
-Dreams and their ability to transform us and the world we live in

Hugo has a dreamlike quality to it, and it is laden with imagery and allegory, some of it screaming for attention, some of it subtle, all of it intelligently and masterfully done. f'rinstance: trains are a recurring theme. They are huge and powerful and move us from place to place, and are thus are symbols of the great forces which animate our lives. There is also the historical fact that the first movie ever made was of a train, so trains and dreams of trains and the fact that the movie is set in a station all saturate the film. Machinery, and more specifically clocks are another symbol. There is a breathtaking opening tracking shot, an amazing implementation of 3-D and utterly impossible without CG, down along the railway platform and up to the station clock, where Hugo's eye is peeping out from behind the numbers. So, we have this clock face: a face which everyone in the station looks at, but no-one sees the face behind the face looking back, appraisingly, at them. At the heart of the film is an automaton; a mechanical man who is only activated by a heart shaped key: an icon of the whole film, really.

This is not just a good film; I think history will show that it is a great film. Certainly I shall see it again, if only to catch up on the thousand details I must have missed. Sure it will be out on DVD before too long, but really, unless you have a very big screen at home with the ability to show 3-D, this is one you should only ever see from a big cinema seat with a decent coffee to hand and a pair of ridiculous spectacles perched on your nose. 

Comments

Kate said…
You have convinced me. I will see them both. Very soon!
Anonymous said…
Yep, I'm going with a friend too, as soon as time allows. Thanks for the great review! It's clearly a deep movie.

Cheers,

Julian

Popular posts from this blog

Ko Tangata Tiriti Ahau

    The Christmas before last our kids gave us Ancestry.com kits. You know the deal: you spit into a test tube, send it over to Ireland, and in a month or so you get a wadge of paper in the mail telling you who you are. I've never, previously, been interested in all that stuff. I knew my forbears came to Aotearoa in the 1850's from Britain but I didn't know from where, exactly. Clemency's results, as it turns out, were pretty interesting. She was born in England, but has ancestors from various European places, and some who are Ngāti Raukawa, so she can whakapapa back to a little marae called Kikopiri, near Ōtaki. And me? It turns out I'm more British than most British people. Apart from a smattering of Norse  - probably the result of some Viking raid in the dim distant past - all my tūpuna seem to have come from a little group of villages in Nottinghamshire.  Now I've been to the UK a few times, and I quite like it, but it's not home: my heart and soul belon

Kindle

 Living as I do in a place where most books have to come a long way in an aeroplane, reading is an expensive addiction, and of course there is always the problem of shelf space. I have about 50 metres of shelving in my new study, but it is already full and there is not a lot of wall space left; and although it is great insulation, what is eventually going to happen to all that paper? I doubt my kids will want to fill their homes with old theological works, so most of my library is eventually going to end up as egg cartons. Ebooks are one solution to book cost and storage issues so I have been  using them for a while now, but their big problem has been finding suitable hardware to read them on.  I first read them on the tiny screens of Ipaqs and they were quite satisfactory but the wretchedness of Microsoft Reader and its somewhat arbitrary copyright protection system killed the experience entirely. On Palm devices they were OK except the plethora of competing and incompatible formats

Camino, by David Whyte

This poem captures it perfectly Camino. The way forward, the way between things, the way already walked before you, the path disappearing and re-appearing even as the ground gave way beneath you, the grief apparent only in the moment of forgetting, then the river, the mountain, the lifting song of the Sky Lark inviting you over the rain filled pass when your legs had given up, and after, it would be dusk and the half-lit villages in evening light; other people's homes glimpsed through lighted windows and inside, other people's lives; your own home you had left crowding your memory as you looked to see a child playing or a mother moving from one side of a room to another, your eyes wet with the keen cold wind of Navarre. But your loss brought you here to walk under one name and one name only, and to find the guise under which all loss can live; remember you were given that name every day along the way, remember you were greeted as such, and you neede

En Hakkore

In the hills up behind Ranfurly there used to be a town, Hamilton, which at one stage was home to 5,000 people. All that remains of it now is a graveyard, fenced off and baking in the lonely brown hills. Near it, in the 1930s a large Sanitorium was built for the treatment of tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. It was a substantial complex of buildings with wards, a nurses hostel, impressive houses for the manager and superintendent and all the utility buildings needed for such a large operation. The treatment offered consisted of isolation, views and weather. Patients were exposed to the air, the tons of it which whistled past, often at great speed, the warmth of the sun and the cold. They were housed in small cubicles opening onto huge glassed verandas where they cooked in the summer and froze in the winter and often, what with the wholesome food and the exercise, got better. When advances in antibiotics rendered the Sanitorium obsolete it was turned into a Borstal and the

Return to Middle Earth

 We had a flood, a couple of weeks back, and had to move all the stuff out of the spare bedroom, including  the contents of two floor to ceiling book cases. Shoving the long unopened copies of Sartor Resartus and An Introduction to Byron into cartons, I came upon my  copy of The Lord of the Rings . Written in the flyleaf are the dates of its many readings, the last one being when I read it aloud to Catherine, when she was about 10 or 11, well over 20 years ago. The journey across Middle Earth took Catherine and me the best part of a year, except for the evening when we followed Frodo and Sam across the last stretches of Mordor and up Mount Doom, when we simply couldn't stop, and sat up reading until 11.00 pm, on a school night.  My old copy is a paperback, the same edition that every card carrying baby boomer has somewhere on their shelves. The glue has dried and hardened. The cover and many of the pages have come loose. I was overcome with the urge to read it again, but this old