Scorsese's 3-D Hugo begins in Paris' Gare Montparnasse with the camera, slightly above the actor's heads, speeding through the crowds. It is a slightly dizzying and cinematically impressive start that also made me fear that the movie was going to be closer to animation than human drama. But, in the end, after the very satisfying human drama that Hugo is, one realizes that that first scene was simply presented as a kind tour de force, as Scorcese's way of showing off: "Look what I can do now that I'm filming in 3-D." Indeed Avatar director James Cameron has been quoted as telling Scorcese that Hugo represented the best use of 3-D he had ever seen.
But Hugo has yet one more great gift to bestow upon the old director. He returns to the station to bring back the marvelous automaton. This time, however, the Stationmaster discovers Hugo before he can return to his secret rooms, following him, as the young child is forced to hide outside the window, hanging from the face of the giant clock, much as had Harold Lloyd in the movie he and Isabelle attended. Unable to find Hugo, The Stationmaster turns back, while the boy grabs up his treasure and runs; but this time, through the Stationmaster's maneuvers, the metal man is thrown into the air, crashing down onto the tracks. Hugo's attempt to retrieve him echoes his dream, as a train bears down upon the trapped boy, pulled to safety at the last moment by the Stationmaster. He hustles the boy away, determined to finally send him off to an institution, just as the Méliès', Isabelle in tow, enter the station, claiming him as their own!
Reprinted from Nth Position [England] (February 2012).