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Martin Scorsese on The Film Programme

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Francine Stock Francine Stock 15:30, Thursday, 1 December 2011

Ed's note: The Film Programme's Francine Stock met director Martin Scorsese earlier this week (as you can see in below in spectacular blurry-vision) to talk about his latest film. You can hear the interview this afternoon at 4pm on Radio 4 and shortly afterwards on the website - PM

Francine and Martin

In film, "passion project" can be a euphemism for self-indulgent failure. But not with Martin Scorsese's Hugo.

It might be an adaptation of an existing book, Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret - but its vitality springs from the director's encyclopaedic knowledge of (and devotion to) cinema history. Set in 1931 Paris but travelling back to the first years of the 20th century, the film itself is an exercise in time travel, using the very latest in digital 3D to recreate the past.

With characteristic attention to detail (OK, that should maybe read obsession) Scorsese has created an enchanted treasure chest that teems with references and magical effects - all set against a real sense of the darkness and oblivion that mortality implies.

He may have been seriously asthmatic as a child but when Martin Scorsese talks, he barely seems to draw breath.

I once hosted a celebration of his work at BAFTA in which he talked (pausing only for the odd film clip and even a few questions here and there from me) for more than two hours. And no-one in the audience grew restless.

He takes on projects with alarming rapidity: he's currently on the slate for two directing projects and at least three as producer and then there are the ongoing commitments to a documentary about British film history and to the rescue of "at risk" old films through his nonprofit Film Foundation.

Some directors become jaded or start repeating themselves after even a couple of decades. Scorsese seems voracious for the new - or at least for fresh and effective ways of recapturing the spell of the films that so entranced him when he saw them in childhood on television or on trips to the cinema with his father.

He says today that he would have made Raging Bull in 3D if that had been around at the end of the 1970s.

I'm still struggling with that idea - for me, it's on a short list of near-perfect films, as absorbing and three dimensional in my perception as I think I can cope with; I'm not sure I want him even considering that idea.

Francine Stock presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4

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