The surprise screening of The New York Film Festival tonight was Martin Scorsese's Hugo, a 3D adaptation of the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret (a much better title for about a hundred reasons) which is about an orphan boy who inadvertently uncovers rich cinematic history while trying to repair a broken automatron that is his only cherished reminder of his father. Martin Scorsese introduced the film himself and seemed a bit embarrassed by the standing ovation before the screening. Perhaps he was thinking Calm down. What if you don't like it?!?
Though you'll undoubtedly see several full reviews online tonight, we were given a finger wagging public reminder pre-screening that we weren't to do so. Scorsese warned us that the color correction was not finished, the score was a temporary rendition of the completed score which Howard Shore is currently recording, and some of the effects and the 3D still needed touching up. This was especially true of the opening pre-title segment which had a lot of computer graphics in lieu of actual people and objects. So absent an actual review, let it suffice to say that I was too caught up in it to take ANY notes (the only thing written on my pad is "still needs color cor..." yep, that's it!) and was very pleasantly surprised.
I had found the trailer so manic and gimmicky that I assumed the film would be a noisy disaster but the completed -- excuse me, nearly completed -- movie is actually fairly gentle and lovely despite flirting with manic slapstick on a few occassions. 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. The film is still settling in my mind and I heard everything from raves to loud but minor quibbling while briefly chatting with other moviegoers outside. But if you've ever loved France, Books, Fiddling With How Gadgets Work, or The History of Cinema, it's a love letter you'll most definitely want to read when it opens next month.