One of the main characters in Martin Scorsese’s first ‘family’ film is the French illusionist and filmmaker Georges Melies famous for many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema. Hugo (2011) based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, half picture book, half novel by American illustrator and writer Brian Selznick, also features references to the Lumiere Brothers two Frenchman that were also among the earliest filmmakers.
|Hugo with the old toy repairer.|
Scorsese’s part fantasy, part tutorial involves a young boy Hugo Cabret played by Asa Butterfield (Son of Rambo 2007, The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas 2008) who we find living in the walls of the Paris Montparnasse railway station. With the use of flashbacks we find out the boys father (Jude Law) has been killed in a horrendous fire in the museum where he worked. The orphan is then taken under the wing of his drunken Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) who maintains the clocks at the railway station. When Claude disappears Hugo takes over his uncles responsibilities. The only keepsakes that Hugo has of his fathers are an illustrated notebook and a clockwork robot, which apparently hides a secret. When he clashes with the proprietor of a toy sales and repair shop Georges (Ben Kingsley) and his goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) he begins an adventure of discovery.
|Hugo and Isabelle at the cinema.|
This film is a defense of the cinema as a dream world, something I don’t always agree with, but with Scorsese I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is a filmmaker that constructs classic movies, including Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) Good Fellows (1990), Casino (1995) and The Departed (2006) and some great documentary’s for example The Last Waltz (1978), No Direction Home (2005) Shine a Light (2008) and George Harrison: Living in a Material World (2011). He is also a man that’s proved his personal interest in the world of film, founding both the Film Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to film preservation, and the World Cinema Foundation, which is devoted to the preservation and restoration of neglected world cinema.
|Hugo and his father work on their robot.|
Hugo is not classic Martin Scorsese but one its obvious he enjoyed making and I would challenge you to find a better opening shot where the camera takes you on a brilliant roller coaster ride. Certainly a story of two parts, when first watching your led to believe it’s a story of a 12 year old boy and his mysterious robot but its not long before you relies that you are being given a history lesson about the early days of film and cinema. Its well deserving of its five Oscars including Best Cinematography for Robert Richardson whose pedigree includes working not only for Scorsese but Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino, Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects. Entertaining, good to look at and well acted, with some very well known performers in what can only be described as cameo roles.
|A famous image of early cinema.|