Jonathan Melville: New films make the trip back to the future

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WE may be living in an age of multiplexes, 3D and CGI, but next year’s Oscar ceremony could see films celebrating cinema’s history become the toast of the movie world.

Opening tomorrow across the country is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, the director’s first film aimed squarely at a family audience. Set in Paris between the wars, it stars Asa Butterfield as a young orphan trying to stay out of trouble while avoiding Sacha Baron Cohen’s station inspector.

With nods to the origins of cinema and early filmmakers, Hugo may be a visually impressive 3D blockbuster, but it’s also a love letter to the medium’s past.

At the end of the month we’ll be treated to The Artist, the story of a silent era film star (Jean Dujardin) in 1920s Hollywood, whose career hangs in the balance when sound comes to the moving pictures.

What makes The Artist unusual is that it is shot in black and white and is silent, apart from the musical score. It not only recalls old silent movies, it actually is one.

While it’s too early to say if either title will inspire a sub-genre of imitators, the idea that audiences will pay money to be taught something about the history filmmaking while they enjoy brand new movies is an intriguing one.

The continuing re-release of classic films such as Meet Me in St Louis and An American in Paris also points to a growing interest in the past from cinema-goers of all ages.

Blockbusters may not be going anywhere in a hurry, but it remains to be seen if they have the same staying power as their predecessors.

Will we be queuing up to watch the “classic” Tower Heist at the Filmhouse 50 years from now? Will 3D be remembered as a quaint innovation by our grandchildren? Only time will tell.

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