Martin Scorsese, who once made a television commercial poking fun at his perfectionist reputation, screened an imperfect version of his new movie “Hugo” for an adoring crowd at the New York Film Festival.
The Oscar-winning director received a standing ovation last night before showing an unfinished print of his first 3-D production at Avery Fisher Hall.
Scorsese said the special effects, soundtrack, credits and other parts of the film must still be completed before it opens in theaters on Nov. 23.
“This is a work in progress,” he told the packed audience. “I hope that those of you who really do like it come and see the final film.”
Richard Pena, the festival’s program director, said it was the first unfinished work shown at the event since “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991.
“We’re just as proud this evening to have this film,” Pena said.
“Hugo,” based on Brian Selznick’s novel about an orphan living in a Paris train station in the 1930s, marks a departure for Scorsese, who’s best known for gangster movies like “Goodfellas” and “The Departed.” It’s a family oriented film with old-fashioned messages about friendship, independence and childhood wonder.
Clocks and silent-film legends play a central role in the movie, which starts slowly and could use some judicious cutting.
The orphan fixes clocks at the train station and tinkers with a broken robot left behind by his late father. There’s also a wonderful homage to the legendary silent-era scene in which Harold Lloyd dangles from the hands of a skyscraper clock.
One of the main characters in “Hugo” is Georges Melies (touchingly played by Ben Kingsley), a pioneering French filmmaker in the early 1900s who went bankrupt and ended up running a toy kiosk at a Paris train station. An enduring image in Scorsese’s movie is Melies’s famous shot of The Man in the Moon with a space capsule imbedded in his eye.
The film’s two young stars, Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz, came on stage following the screening. The cast also includes Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, Sacha Baron Cohen and Ray Winstone.
Rumors that co-producer Johnny Depp has a cameo are still unresolved. A mustachioed painter who makes a brief appearance looks a lot like him, but the latest word is that it’s another actor.
The 17-day festival closes Oct. 16 with “The Descendants,” starring George Clooney as a Hawaiian land baron who must care for his two young daughters after his wife is seriously injured in a boating accident.
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)