[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] N [/dropcap] ever bet against Martin Scorsese. He has scored a wonderful holiday classic with Hugo. This is the story of a young orphan who lives in the clockworks at the Gare St. Lazare in Paris in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Hugo is filmed in a stylized 3D and I must say, Scorsese has done the near impossible….gotten me to actually like the 3D effects and not feel uncomfortable through the entire movie with the 3D. Maybe it’s the Jules Verne allusion of the gears of turn-of-the-century machinery, maybe it’s the whimsical setting in the behind-the-scenes back streets of Paris ala Ratatouille or The Borrowers. Or maybe it’s just that John Logan (writer of Gladiator and The Last Samurai) has the ability to hone in on the purest and most noble of human characteristics and Scorsese presents them beautifully and elegantly. It is hard to believe that the guy who showed us the grit of The Gangs of New York can show us the love and gentile admiration of Hugo.
Ben Kingsley is the big name star who is the central connecting character between the plebeian reality of the train station and the glamourous imagination that the new medium of CinemaScope initiates. The child stars are Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz, who do a fine job. The surprise comes from Sacha Baron Cohen. He plays the station inspector with the mechanical leg brace and the penchant for nabbing orphans who loiter about the station. As a person who hated Borat and Bruno, I was amazed that he could play a part with such subtlety and richness.
The seminal moment in this movie that resonated with me is when Hugo innocently says to Isabelle that it’s too dangerous to go forward with their plan and Isabelle says, “it wouldn’t be an adventure if there were no danger.” What it reminded me was that the exact same thing applies to investments….”it wouldn’t be an investment if there were no risk.” This movie takes place in 1925, a time of great change in the world. We all think that the similarity is about the crash and Depression, but this movie reminds us that the bigger change was the post-WWI loss of innocence and how economic culture changed forever. No movies unless there was a chicken in every pot and a Ford in every driveway. This spoke to me about the damage inflicted on the American (and perhaps global) psych by Enron, Woldcom, Lehman, and perhaps mostly, the precipitous fall in housing prices. If we think this is no more than a cyclical set-back, we will surely miss the forrest for the trees. Movies faded away, but came back stronger than ever….but changed and improved. Investments will do likewise and our challenge today is to get out ahead of the necessary improvements.
If that is all too much economics for a Holiday movie, rest assured that Hugo will make you feel good about the world….and mostly about the human race.