Review of Hugo, an Oscar Winning 2011 Film By Martin Scorsese, Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen

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Hugo (wikipedia)

GRADE: AA / 90%

 Summary: Martin Scorsese is a magician who loves making movies, and each and every minute of Hugo is a testament to this; with his arms outstretched, he invites us to be hypnotized by his timeless creation, a cinematic ode to films


Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle
Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès / Papa Georges
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustave
Helen McCrory as Jeanne d’Alcy / Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg as René Tabard
Jude Law as Hugo’s father
Ray Winstone as Claude Cabret
Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse
Emily Mortimer as Lisette
Frances de la Tour as Madame Emile
Richard Griffiths as Monsieur Frick

Martin Scorsese is a magician who loves making movies, and each and every minute of Hugo is a testament to this; with his arms outstretched, he invites us to be hypnotized by his timeless creation, a cinematic ode to films – a medium that shall carry on so long as we dream, so long as our spirit for adventure doesn’t die and our purpose of life remains strong.

Broken is the life of Georges Méliès, a man, a magician celebrated once for his innovative contributions to film, and only can Hugo Cabret being back happiness to his defeated existence; it is Scorsese who colors their lives with wit, with charm, with humor, with a tinge of sadness but most importantly, with hope.

Hugo is a visually brilliant film, a Scorsese’s vision of Paris, and you soon fall in love with its characters, their lives, their desires, their dreams. It is an ode to cinema, and yet it remains entirely Scorsese’s and that is what makes it new and fresh.

‘Time is everything’ chimes Hugo’s uncle Claude, a drunken lout, as he brings Hugo to train station Gare Montparnasse’s clock-tower where he mends clocks; Hugo’s father has just died in a fire accident, and his son, now orphaned, is taught by Uncle Claude how to mend clocks. We see of Uncle Claude no more, its only Hugo and his little, secret life inside the enormous castle of a clock-tower. Scorsese opens the film with turning clock wheels dissolving into Parisian streets, then gives us a scintillating glimpse of Paris like we’ve never seen before, before taking us down to Gare Montparnasse station, moving along the station life and rising to the clock face but closing in near number five, where we see finally see Hugo’s eyes.

Hugo controls time, the station time to be exact, and so long as the clock functions fine, he remains safe. His only hurdle outside is the station inspector, a hard-hearted monomaniac whose sole purpose is to catch hold of orphaned children loitering in the station and send them off to orphanage. Through the dial, he watches the movement outside – the amusing courtship between café owner Madame Emile and newsstand owner Monsieur Frick, flower lady Lisette’s morning greetings to passersby, the station-master’s watchful eye and toymaker Georges’ tiny shop. He’s particularly keen about Georges’ shop because he steals toy parts whenever Georges dozes off to sleep; he needs these parts to fix ‘Automaton’, a mechanical man Hugo’s father left behind unrepaired. Automaton, when fixed, will write down something and Hugo believes it would be a message from his late father.

Martin Scorsese at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festi...

Martin Scorsese – the man, the magician (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But while attempting to steal some parts one day, he’s caught by Georges. The toymaker threatens to alert the station-inspector unless Hugo reveals to him why he is stealing toy parts. When Hugo remains defiantly silent, Georges peruses the diary he’s holding and mysteriously utters ‘Ghosts!’ before taking away the diary from him and declaring to burn it. Before Hugo can persuade him to return the diary, the station-inspector Gustave and his Doberman Pinscher give him a chase. Hugo escapes, but now has to find a way to get the diary back; he follows Georges to his home one day and beckons his goddaughter Isabelle to meet him.

The two little explorers embark on an adventure to get the book back and find the key that would make Automaton work. In doing so, they discover something they’d never even dreamed of – toymaker and Isabelle’s godparent Georges is the man behind pioneering movies like ‘A Trip to the Moon’; yes, he is indeed THE Georges Méliès, but he’s defeated and lost all his former glory. And he’s dead, according to Rene Tabard’s book on film history, but that’s until Rene meets Hugo and Isabelle in the public library, and things soon begin to change, for everyone.

Along the way, we learn how cinema began and just how important it was for the makers. Even today, you have filmmakers complaining that the glory days of film are over. Even Scorsese’s film, as good as a film can get, still could hardly match up to collections of the Transformers movie released in the same year. The truth is, so long as you have love what you’re doing and haven’t lost the burning desire to do it, you’ll live a happy life and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. And Scorsese should take a bow for creating Hugo.

Wouldn’t have been such a delight without its wonderful cast – Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz, who are expressive and believable, especially Moretz. The wrong casting would’ve made Hugo and Isabelle snotty and annoyingly precocious children, but Asa and Chloe play it right. Sacha Baron Cohen is a comic delight as Gustave while Ben Kingsley is convincing as the crabby Georges and touching in his later scenes. The DVD comes with a special feature that includes the making of Hugo, and you get a good insight on what these actors felt working with a man, a magician like Scorsese who loves making movies.


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