Rental Corner: Some nostalgic evening with “Elephants” and “Hugo”
The marketing for “Water for Elephants” was something that I feel was done wrong. The vibe I got from it was a “happy-go-luck” tale about lovers trying to run a circus. What shut me off from it was how I didn’t feel there was anything interesting or anything that gave me a reason to view it. By the time I decided to give it a look, I found myself to be wrong about it.
Set druing the Great Depression, the story centers around Jacob (Robert Pattenson), a college student that comes close to getting a degree and future as a veteranian. However, things backfire when his parents die and is left with nothing. He later joins a circus and becomes well-aquainted with the local carnies. Eventually, he gets hired on by the circus owner August (Christoph Waltz) who later gains an elephant as the star attraction to replace a broken down horse. As things progress, Jacob becomes concerned with the relationship between August and his wife that comes off as complicated as August tends to be easily jealous and very possessive of his things.
The character of Jacob is based from the classic love story formuals of the outsider that comes into the lives of two people and falls in love with the one aquainted with another. However, this plot element is rather unique as the love interest is bound to the cirus owner. The relationship between her and August is a tragic one. August can be seen as a softer side of Frank Booth from Blue Velvet. Instead of cussing every minute and inhaling gases, he is a rough character that only wants things his way and the more cross you with him, the bigger the chance he will toss you off a train. While Jacob is an innoicent guy, at least he knows the right way of things seeing how August tends to misabuse the animals and sees his own crew as just acts rather than people.
Water for Elephants as a whole is not just a love story. While watching it, I had a strange feeling as I felt like I traveled back to a time when I saw the circus as a kid and appreciated all the acts I saw. A time where the will of imagination was just under a big top. However, the circus experiences I had were indoors (with one exception of seeing it under a tent) as opposed to the dying tradition of the “big top circus.” This movie provides that feel of seeing what one was like in the past while getting a good look at the attraction in the center ring. A look of what audiences in the 1930s didn’t see behind the drama that occured behind the tents.
Another winner of the night was Martin Scorsese’s latest critical hit, Hugo. The story of a kid that lives in a 1931 train station after his father dies and continues to manage the clocks under the unknown eye of the train station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). In Hugo’s possesion is an automaton, a wind-up machine that can either write or draw pictures. Thanks to the unforunate death of his father, the discovered creation is left unfinished as Hugo tries to fix up and learn the possible message his father left behind.
Also involved is a nearby toymaker that is aware of Hugo’s michef and makes his work for him to pay off the items he “stole.” Hugo later comes across the tinker’s goddaughter who could be a possible key in fixing the automaton. Once the secret is unlocked, the second half becomes more of an homage to film pinoeer George Méliès as Hugo and his new found friend try to find the conncetion between the automaton and the tinker.
In fact, one can notice this movie tends to apply the basic cliches of a silent movie off the bat as visual expresion is often used, certain shots are mostly wide or long, and certain characters have certain quirks that apply to them like the inspectior being a vicim various chases that result in a comical payoff. Even the world of Hugo is visually impressive and becomes a character itself as passengers come and go like how the moving gears of clock never end or how the bright and vibrant the train station is compared to the dark and dimmly lit rooms of the clock.
Hugo in its own right is more than a movie about a boy and his ventures. Its the rediscovery of the past and power of films. Without the character of Hugo, there is no charm and innocence that leads to the ingenious spark as he gets an old figure to relive his past while it wittles down to a finale that pays ode to various and iconic silent film scenes. To describe how impressive this movie is tends to be a difficult one. It has a unique charm and appeal that reminds us of the magic of movies and what they can do.