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I sat down to watch Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” last night with little idea of what to expect but one thing: that the screen would be awash with some of the finest, most inventive technical artistry that money (or, indeed, imagination) can buy. I was not disappointed: while I’m still sorting out my thoughts on the film as a feat of storytelling, there’s little denying that it’s one of the year’s most lustrous craft showcases, rendered in genuinely eye-popping 3D and buttressing the cinematic valentine it writes to pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès with its own arsenal of visual wonders.
Such expertise is now par for the course with Scorsese, whatever the film: I was cool on “Shutter Island” last year, but still delighted in his own delight in the filmmaking tools at his disposal – even less obviously extravagant works like “The Departed” or “Taxi Driver” are fat with aesthetic and sensory detail. That’s partly down to the director’s own genius, and partly down to the intimate collaborations he fosters with masters of their own craft: to love Scorsese is to love editor Thelma Schoonmaker, designer Dante Ferretti, DPs Michael Ballhaus and Robert Richardson, and so many more who have become part and parcel of the man’s auteur identity.
So Scorsese seemed as ideal a candidate as any for one of our occasional craft-themed lists – here, I’ve selected the 10 below-the-line contributions to his films, ranging from cinematography to sound to production design, that have most amazed me over the years.
It was a subjective process, not to mention an agonizing one. I made life more interesting, if a little easier, for myself by deciding only to pick one craft element per film: Scorsese’s filmography is so broad that it wouldn’t do to have certain favorites hogging three spots on the list. The ranking, meanwhile, shouldn’t be taken too seriously: how does one compare costume design to scoring, after all? The list really offers only a taste of the visual and sonic marvels of Scorsese’s cinema, a buffet so broad that even a film as technically gifted as “Hugo” struggled to find a place.
See if it did in our new gallery, and please share your own thoughts and favorites in the comments section below.
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