Martin Scorsese, the creator of such spiky, violent entertainments as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and GoodFellas, did something hugely unpredictable here: he made a film for all the family. And it’s perfectly exquisite – a story set in the 1930s about a 12-year-old orphan boy (Asa Butterfield), who secretly lives within the walls of a Parisian railway station – behind a giant clock (click on the picture, right, to watch the trailer).
It’s not that simple, of course, and the story manages to encompass a love of reading and the magic of the movies – personified by a grumpy old shopkeeper on the station (Ben Kingsley) who turns out to be Georges Meliès, a pioneer of moving pictures, now living in obscurity.
Jude Law plays the boy’s beloved father, who comes to a bad end, while Sacha Baron Cohen, in a fierce, comic and touching turn, is the station inspector whose job it is to round up stray truants. The film was released in 3-D, but it loses nothing with one dimension fewer.
Adults will admire Scorsese’s camera trickery and visual brilliance, while children will thrill to the chases and suspense. Scorsese told me himself he thinks Hugo is suitable for bright kids over the age of 9 – and that feels about right. (Entertainment in Video, £19.99, from April 2).
The Deep Blue Sea
A classy work from Terence Davies, one of Britain’s most stylish directors, this is impressively adapted from Terence Rattigan’s stage play. On its release, it seemed crowded out by too many other grown-up films in contention for awards, but it merits viewing if only for a marvellous performance by lead actress Rachel Weisz, who has never been better on the big screen.
She plays the privileged Hester, married to a sedate High Court judge (Simon Russell Beale), but passionately in love with a dashing but shallow ex-RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston) who finds himself incapable of returning her affections.
Set ‘around 1950,’ the film evokes a shabby post-war Britain beautifully, and Hester’s hopeless predicament is heartbreaking; her emotion blazes fiercely in a setting of repression and damaged lives. I found it profoundly moving, though if you like your films light-hearted, this isn’t for you. Rattigan’s tendency to create characters who cannot express their feelings is evident throughout. (Artificial Eye, £15.99, April 2).
We Have A Pope
Italian director Nanni Moretti’s mischievous streak is evident in his latest, mildly satirical film, which has a great premise: a conclave of Catholic cardinals is electing a new Pontiff, but none of them wants the onerous job.
It finally falls to a diffident French Cardinal (an outstanding Michel Piccoli) who has a crisis of faith and confidence on being elected. Moretti plays a psychoanalyst brought in to help, but to no avail – the new Pope vanishes, wandering anonymously around Rome, mixing with ordinary people and hoping for guidance.
It’s a lovely idea, but unfortunately Moretti fails to milk it for all it’s worth, and the laughter dries up. We’re left with a film that has charm to spare, but could have been so much more. (Soda, £15.99, April 2).