The 2011 edition of the New York Film Festival received a fine gift on Monday night when Martin Scorsese's latest film, "Hugo," debuted in a "sneak screening." The unfinished picture (reports claim there was green screen evident in a number of shots) was introduced by the master filmmaker and New York icon.
Based on Brian Selznick's young adult novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," the film follows the title character (Asa Butterfield), an orphaned Parisian boy trying to decipher a mystery surrounding his late father. He's joined on the adventure by Isabelle (Chloe Moretz) as he attempts to avoid capture from an obsessed train station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). Jude Law plays Hugo's father while Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Michael Pitt and Ray Winstone are featured in supporting roles.
This is Scorsese first venture into 3-D and financier GK Films and distributor Paramount Pictures have been understandably nervous about whether the $120 million family film can play to a broad audience. Most trustworthy sources* of this particular pundit had high praise for the 3-D, but some concerns about the overall ride.
*Yes, there were some hyperbolic tweets about the film, but the ones below certainly weren't reacting like it was the next "Avatar."
Eric Kohn, Indiewire critic tweeted, "If nothing else, the first 3-D movie about the importance of silent film preservation."
Fellow awards season pundit Anne Thompson also chimed in on twitter noting, "Scorsese delivers cinephile's wet dream with costly 3-D. Lead kid + first half are stiff, but it shifts into gear by finale."
Stu Van Airsdale of Moveline described it as "the world’s first activist magic-realist holiday family blockbuster-hopeful." He also marveled at the film's 3D sequences, but was taken a back by how "preachy" the film was at the end while also marveling "'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."
The highest compliment may have come from Andrew O'Hehir of Salon who noted, "Scorsese's not-quite-finished #HUGO has issues, but the right word is magical. Gorgeous use of 3D & his best film in many years (seriously)."
We can buy better than "The Aviator" or "Gangs of New York," but ahead of "The Departed"? That's a pretty bold statement. We'll see...
More consensus should arrive when most major critics and media should get to see the final print about three weeks from now. Audiences will get their chance on Nov. 23.
Are you up for Scorsese's 3-D ride through 1930's Paris? Share your thoughts below.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.