Week 13

View George Melies’s “A Trip to the Moon” (1902) on YouTube below. 

Then view Hugo (Scorsese, 2011).  This film represents modern filmmaking, in the same style as Amelie - exquisite mise-en-scene, a postmodern narrative, and elements of film history and film innovation, as it represents the ongoing trend of not only CGI, but also 3D (can you tell which moments were meant for 3D in the theater?). 

By now, we are experts at analyzing films!  I will not follow the list of six analytical criteria as I usually do weekly, as you are now beginning that process for your final paper film!  For now, I will point out some of the more remarkable aspects of Hugo in relation to the course:

The film, through digital color correction similar to Amelie, incorporates a rich color scheme of rusty reds, pale blues, and rich golden yellows in almost every frame of the film.  The color palette can be seen very easily in Hugo’s sweater he wears consistently throughout the film (at right). 

Once again, we have a mixture of CGI and actual footage, even more so than Amelie.  The opening shot of the film, traveling through the Paris and the train station, is almost entirely CGI.  The camera then follows Hugo as he maneuvers himself through the train station in a very impressive long shot.  Comparing the use of the camera from “A Trip to the Moon” to this shot is truly awe-inspiring.  Look at how far technology has pushed the possibilities of filmmaking! 

Even though Hugo is the most modern film in class, it represents some of the more classical styles in regards to Hollywood Cinema.  It is traditional in the ways of storytelling - have a clear heroic protagonist, a villainous antagonist, clear desire and opposition, a rising action, climax, and most importantly, a happy ending with closure.  This is fitting as a family film, which is out of ordinary for Martin Scorsese’s auteur traits. 

While we are talking Scorsese, lets look at his distinguishing auteur characteristics, most of which he does NOT display in Hugo (from imdb.com):

Begins his films with segments taken from the middle or end of the story (Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995)).

[slow-motion] Makes use of slow motion techniques (e.g., Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980)).

Often uses diagetic music (ie, source of music is visible on-screen)

Often uses long tracking shots (His most famous tracking shot is from Goodfellas (1990), following Henry Hill and his future wife Karen through the basement of the Copacabana nightclub and ending up at a newly-prepared table). A notoriously difficult shot to perfect, he has been dubbed by some as the "King of the Tracking Shot".

Often uses freeze frames (Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), The Departed (2006)).

Frequently uses music by The Rolling Stones, especially the song "Gimme Shelter" (Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995), The Departed (2006)).

[Cameo] Cameo appearances by himself and family members like his parents, Charles Scorsese and Catherine Scorsese. Catherine played Joe Pesci's mother in Goodfellas (1990).

Frequently sets his films in New York City

Unflinchingly graphic and realistic violence

Frequently casts pop stars in small acting roles: Kris Kristofferson in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), Clarence Clemons in New York, New York (1977), Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon, and Ellen Foley, The King of Comedy (1982), Iggy Pop in The Color of Money (1986), David Bowie in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Deborah Harry and Peter Gabriel in New York Stories (1989), Marc Anthony and Queen Latifah in Bringing Out the Dead (1999), Gwen Stefani, Loudon Wainwright III, Martha Wainwright, and Rufus Wainwright in The Aviator (2004). Mark Wahlberg starred in The Departed (2006) long after ending his rapper days as "Marky Mark".

His movies are "cut" to the music.


3D has made a huge comeback in the past 5 years, and has become controversial in film consumption while also being a big box-office draw.  Let’s look at  how 3D works in the theater.  To achieve depth, the images on the screen must replicate the distance between the human eyes, which is how we perceive depth (cover one eye, and depth disappears).  Modern 3D glasses convert two images overlapping into images that each eye sees separately, using polarizing filters.  One eyepieces is polarized horizontally, and the other vertically.  Each lens cancels out the image it should not be seeing, allowing each human eye to see two separate images, distanced spatially.  This is not that different from the older glasses that filtered the red and blue images overlapping from the screen (the blue lens sees the red image, the red sees the blue).   

Most importantly, I include Hugo as a conclusion to the course because it is an undeniable collision of early filmmaking and truly modern filmmaking.  You see this with the cinematic retelling of the work of George Melies within the film.  The life and work of Melies is a very true aspect within the film, and is dramatized as a backdrop for the adventures of Hugo.  It is valuable to see early special effects, and the beauty of film even in its primitive beginnings.  By  now, you have an eclectic knowledge of films spanning 110 years, among many styles and genres.  I hope you enjoyed the wide variety of films presented in Masterpieces of Cinema!