Scorsese Makes Paris Come Alive in ‘Hugo’
Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and directed by Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese, Hugo is guaranteed to take you on an adventure.
Although the film stars a large batch of famous names, such as Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Helen McCrory, these actors gladly take a step back and highlight the magnificent work of the film's two young stars: Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz. There is also a little something for the Harry Potter fan- look out for not one but three appearances of Harry Potter alums.
Because of his propensity to direct movies that deal with the mob, Scorsese is more famously known as a gangster movie director. Some of his more popular films include Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Departed, and Shutter Island. Scorsese typically sets his films in New York City, but for Hugo, he goes all the way to the city of love and lights: Paris.
From the moment the movie starts, the audience has no doubt that it will be visually striking. Scorsese does a brilliant job with scene transitions, lighting, camera angles, and the juxtaposition of machines with art. These all add to the overall brilliance of Scorsese's directing and beautifully capture the moods of the actors.
Hugo, played by newcomer Butterfield, is left with an automaton after his father tragically passes away. This automaton is a machine resembling a human figure, programmed to do various tasks, such as writing and drawing. The orphaned Hugo lives alone inside the walls of a Paris train station, keeping the clocks working properly, and sometimes stealing in order to survive. Only when he finally gets caught does his unlikely adventure begin.
The story follows young Hugo as he spends his time trying to fix the automaton that his father left him. He meets Isabelle (Moretz), who ends up having the key, literally, to fixing the automaton. However, Isabelle soon becomes the key to so much more.
Hugo and Isabelle's adventure leads them to uncover secrets that have remained in the past for many years. One of those secrets is the history of Georges Melies, a Parisian filmmaker who lived from 1861 to 1938.
Melies was one of the pioneers of cinema, but his legacy was forgotten until the late 1920s due to World War I. His work focused heavily on dreams, and his film studio, Star Films, along with his legacy, are justly represented in Hugo.
Scorsese does an excellent job of bringing real aspects of Melies' life into the film. For instance, Melies really did build his own camera after seeing the Lumiere brothers' first film in 1895. He also hand-painted his own film strips to add color, and he directed, produced, and starred in over 500 films throughout his lifetime.
In the film, Hugo's father tells him about the first movie he ever saw: against a white screen, a rocket shot straight up to the moon and hit the man in the moon right in the eye. That film was called A Trip to the Moon, or Le Voyage dans la Lune, coincidentally by George Melies. Parts of the original 1902 film were used in Hugo, which contributed to the authenticity of the piece.
The sets, costumes, props, and just about everything in the movie were beautiful, adding to the vintage 1920s feel. It truly made the audience feel like they were in Paris and right in the middle of this adventure alongside Hugo and Isabelle.
The film itself accelerates at a slower pace than most Scorsese fans are used to, but that is because the story he is telling requires him to take his time. Hugo tells a story of friendship, love, passion, art, science, family, and following dreams. It is definitely worth the two hours.
Hugo makes the perfect holiday movie to watch with friends or family—it will leave you filled with hope and with the desire to never stop dreaming.