REVIEW ROUND-UP: Martin Scorcese’s Incomplete ‘Hugo’ in New York

The surprise sneak preview that closed the New York Film Festival last night turned out to be Martin Scorcese’s 3D film Hugo. The 1930s set film tells the story of an orphan in a train station who is set to discover a mystery that has to do with his late father and the technology that fascinated him. The version of the film audience saw last night was incomplete with a few scenes only roughly edited and much of the 3D  rendering yet to be done. However, it appears that there was certainly enough of the film seen to get a clear idea of the tone and the early reviews are intrigued.

Before the film, Scorcese introduced it with a brief featurette:

The Playlist posted one of the first reviews of the work and they called it an “affectionate love letter to cinema.” They put to rest the worries about the use of 3D and say it actually helps the film:

One thing’s for sure, though. Scorsese knew exactly what he was talking about when he spoke of the immersive power of 3D, and in his hands it is masterful. Each shot is gorgeously composed with a textural spatial sense and an astonishingly impressive depth of field that hits you visually, psychologically and emotionally. Doubly extraordinary is the tactile impression left throughout. While there is CGI here and there, the train station set of “Hugo” is a living, breathing entity that looked like it cost a very pretty penny, to put it lightly. But the money is up there on the screen and from a visual standpoint the film is breathtaking.

Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience is careful not to post a full review, as instructed at the screening, but he does take time to compliment the production design:

Production designer and certain Oscar nominee (again) Dante Ferretti’s clock motif on steroids should read garish since Hugo lives inside a train station which seems to house ten thousand of them, all of which he hand winds daily. Instead the sets feel like intricate beauties with tiny hand-crafted parts.

Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter puts down his very brief thoughts where he speculates if audiences will really enjoy it:

Yes, it’s a movie starring kids… but it’s really not for them. If anyone, it’s for (and about) Scorsese, the great film lover, historian, and preservationist. At it’s core, it is the most expensive and creative Film History 101 course of all time. I’m not sure who from the public is going to enroll, and I think that most in the Academy have already passed it… but the professor is to be admired for offering it nonetheless.

Stu Van Airsdale of Movieline was not completely impressed by the footage, although he does like to see Scorcese having fun:

Those unfamiliar shouldn’t have the specifics spoiled for them, save to say that the final 30 minutes are a captivating tightrope walk that evince both passions in without guile or reservation. It’s so over-the-top that many exiting theatergoers broke their smiles only to either admire or rue Scorsese’s whimsical evangelism. “It was so preachy!” I told one peer, only to realize before adding, “But I kind of liked being preached to!” At least I preferred it compared to the well-made, well-acted but relatively bloodless conviction of the film’s first half.

Hugo will be in theatres in the U.S. on November 23, 2011.

Oscar Speculation

I think it is unfair to jump to conclusions based on the incomplete footage that was screened. It sounds like the film has a few of the technical categories wrapped up including Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. The acting was not much commented on, but if the film is really a “love letter to cinema” I anticipate the Academy will eat it up. More to come on this one.

Other Fall 2011 Review Round-Ups:

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