Hugo is an orphan boy living in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. He learned to fix clocks and other gadgets from his father and uncle which he puts to use keeping the train station clocks running. The only thing that he has left that connects him to his dead father is an automaton (mechanical man) that doesn't work without a special key. Hugo needs to find the key to unlock the secret he believes it contains. On his adventures, he meets George Melies, a shopkeeper, who works in the train station, and his adventure-seeking god-daughter. Hugo finds that they have a surprising connection to his father and the automaton, and he discovers it unlocks some memories the old man has buried inside regarding his past.Written by
There must be something unifying in our globes collective consciousness, as 2011 saw two films that looked back at the cinematic past. Strangely, it took a French film maker, Michel Hazanavicius, to release a movie that pays homage to early, silent American cinema (The Artist). Conversely, Martin Scorsese, a well-known cinephile, delights with his love of early European silent cinema, in his often beautiful 'children's' film, Hugo.
Set in 1930's Paris, the main focus of this cinematic love is the work of the first movie magician, Georges Melies. We are introduced to Hugo (Asa Butterfield), a young man whose father left him a automaton after his death. It was a project that they worked on together, but never finished it. Hugo's main mission is to get the object working. As an orphan, Hugo hides in the rafters of a train station, maintaining the clocks that his drunken uncle used to do. After befriending a young girl, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), he finally gets the automaton working, and it opens up a mystery that leads to the forgotten cinema of Melies (Ben Kingsley), now working on a store in the station.
The film shows love for silent cinema, and particularly the magic of Melies. Sacha Baron Cohen's station inspector is occasionally funny, and his character seems to be filtered through both Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, and Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot, but he just doesn't seem to really progress at all, and feels almost like a filler character. Scorsese, like Robert Zemekis and Bob Gale before, reference that iconic Harold Lloyd moment in Safety Last! (1923), as Hugo hangs from a clock face.
Like so many others who speculate about the choices of Oscar nominations, Hugo, I feel, is not a contender for the best picture Oscar. There were some far better films produced in 2011. That said, the film is beautiful, accomplished , and often fun. Also, the resurgence of interest in a forgotten father of cinema, is completely touching, and leaves a warm feeling in the heart. Unfortunately, I did not see this in 3D; as far as I am aware, Scorsese uses it to brilliant degrees, so perhaps this would have made the experience perfect (despite the fact that I care not for the dimensions of 3.
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