Hugo : An ode to Cinema

In my opinion there are only two people in the current lot of movie makers who have a profound knowledge of anything and everything about movies. Movies that could inspire, stimulate, enlighten the minds of the audience. One of them is Woody Allen, the other, Martin Scorsese. Both veterans in their own set of genres. Both makers of some fascinating masterpieces, which have redefined the way movies are made, seen and experienced. Woody Allen gave us the wonderful 

Midnight in Paris last year. And in that very same year, Martin Scorsese, tried his luck in something he had never ever done before, an adventure movie and that too a 3D adventure movie.

And the result is similar to his other movie, another masterpiece. It’s another example of fine movie making. He has crafted an ode to cinema that touches your heart in a way very few movies do. It’s a tribute to the forgotten generation and evolution of cinema as we see it today.

Now I’ve waited for this movie to be released in India for a long long time. I actually stopped myself from buying a DVD twice, because I wanted to watch it on the big screen.  Heard there were some problems with the distributors not wanting to release it, due to the content of the movie. They were skeptical about the reaction and response of the Indian audience. Well to be honest, Hugo is not for people who watch a movie for the masala, the jazz, the item numbers, hell not even for people who get bored after watching Avengers. The audience of this cinema would be restricted to people who watch movies not just for the entertainment, but also for the sentimental values, the details, and the intricacies of it all. it’s for the critics and connoisseurs of fine cinema.

Hugo is based on Based on “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”, a beautiful book, half graphic novel, half prose tale, by Brian Selznick.  It’s a delightful fable that includes magic, tradition, respect for the past and affection between generations, all bound up in the history of the cinema and the machinery invented to capture images on strips of film and project them on screens.

Hugo is set in Paris in 1931 and begins with a breathtaking shot of the city, as the camera swoops down on to a busy railway station. It flies along a narrow platform between two steam trains, crosses a busy concourse and ends up on the 12-year-old Hugo, who is peering at the world from behind the figure “4” of a giant clock. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) has inherited a love of tinkering with machinery from his late father, and has quite recently taken over the job of superintending the station’s clocks from his drunken uncle. The boy lives in the hidden tunnels and passageways of the building, where he’s repairing a 19th-century automaton. Fate has brought him there, and it then draws him into the orbit of an old man, Georges (Ben Kingsley), who runs an old-fashioned shop on the station selling toys and doing mechanical repairs, assisted by his 12-year-old god-daughter, Isabelle. Hugo becomes involved with the old man when he’s accused of theft and has his cherished book of drawings confiscated. He is then assisted by Isabelle in retrieving the book, and in turn, when he discovers she’s forbidden to go to the movies, he takes her on a great “adventure”, a visit to the lost world of silent movies at a season of old films. Some clever Dickensian twists ensue as the labyrinthine plot takes the pair on a journey into a mysterious past.

With this celebration of magic and the imaginative use of 3D, Scorsese salutes what many will see as an alternative kind of cinema to his own. But he has always been fascinated by the all-involving experience of movie going and has a knowledge of and affection for film history matched by few directors of his generation.

Hugo is a moving, funny and exhilarating film, an imaginative history lesson in the form of a detective story. The film is a great defense of the cinema as a dream world, a complementary, countervailing, transformative force to the brutalizing reality we see all around us.

Once Hugo discovers that Papa Georges is actually the long retired-but-not-forgotten prewar director, the story transforms into a visual love letter to the pioneers of film history, as viewed from the perspective of a young movie fan. It’s a treat to watch the visuals, the scenes are very well crafted and strung together to play with the audiences emotions.

Martin Scorsese isn’t the kind of director you’d expect to make a spectacular film for families. He is, after all, the auteur behind such mobster dramas as Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed. But by selecting Selznick’s genre-defying illustrated novel as his subject, Scorsese is able to tackle one of his personal passions — the history of early film and a very real director named Georges Melies.  I for one never even knew that a person named Georges Melies even existed. Now I have profound gratitude for his work.

Butterfield is simply amazing. With eyes that evoke every emotion from awe to horror, the young English actor is a revelation, as is his on-screen connection to Moretz. And Kingsley is, one of the best actors, period. Cohen provides much-needed comic relief with his manic portrayal of the crippled station inspector, who’s also a lonely war veteran;  The 3-D is dazzling and the set pieces as visually appealing as an actual walk through Paris. It might have seemed impossible, but Scorsese has proven that he can pull a Spielberg and create a magical movie — about the magic of movies — for all.

Technically, the movie is spectacular, as any Scorsese movie is. The music blends beautifully with the tone and time of the movie. The orchestration is stirring and harmonious.

On the whole, I loved the movie, loved it cause it’s about movies.  Its about movies as a way to disconnect from the world and dream. To paint the world with the colors of imagination. One on quotes George Melies says during the movie, has just etched in my mind now. “If you’ve ever wondered where your dreams come from, you look around… this is where they’re made.”

Watch it and celebrate a “Life in Technicolor”.

Rating :

Direction                   :   5

Cinematography      :   4

Music                         :   5

CGI                              :   4

Story                           :   5

Acting                       :   5

Total                         :   4.7

IMDB Link                :

Trailer :

15 thoughts on “Hugo : An ode to Cinema

  1. I love it so much specially what you said about “this cinema would be restricted to people who watch movies not just for the entertainment, but also for the sentimental values, the details, and the intricacies of it all. it’s for the critics and connoisseurs of fine cinema.” also how you connected it with Woody Allen

  2. The movie itself runs a bit long at 127 minutes, but Hugo is worth every minute for the visual feast it provides, and features Scorsese in probably his most delightful and elegant mood ever, especially with all of the beautiful 3-D. Good review.

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