Notorious for gory violence, vulgar profanity, intense drug use and exploitation of sex… Martin Scorsese is not the first director to come to mind for a children’s movie. With a gentle PG rating, and children actors as leads, Hugo (2011) could not be further out of the director’s wheelhouse, right? Wrong. Underlying tones of Scorsese still manage to bloom in a children’s movie. Adapted from the 2007 book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the story follows young Hugo, played by Asa Butterfield, who is a lonely orphan living in the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930s. Although working on the station’s clocks, Hugo’s real job is to protect the remains of his late father’s life work. The work consists of a notebook filled with blueprints and a broken automaton—a mechanical man created to write with a pen. Seeking to solve the mystery of the automaton, he befriends Isabelle, played by Chloë Grace Mortez, the goddaughter of the early pioneer filmmaker, Georges Méliès, played by Ben Kingsley.
Historic tales and a focus on early cinema are no stranger to a Scorsese film. Hugo is no different. The film features real moments of the life and work of Georges Méliès. Méliès was a French illusionist and film director who led many technical advancements in early cinema. Most notably, the 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon—the first film use of special effects. This was a groundbreaking moment in film, that changes the way audiences watch movies and the overall industry spectacle forever.
Despite having made Hugo for his then 12-year-old daughter to be able to watch one of his films, Scorsese makes a very personal project—a tribute to Méliès. “[Méliès] invented everything, basically, he invented it all…and when you see these colored images moving, the way he composed these frames and what he did with the action, it's like looking at illuminated manuscripts moving" (“Martin Scorsese on ‘Hugo”’). Scorsese has powerfully taken on the digital age and has adapted like no other. Taking a technical advancement of his own, Hugo was Scorsese’s first project shot entirely on a digital format and distributed in a 3D format. A new aspect to the industry and a first for the director. How meta when compared to Méliès’ production of A Trip to the Moon! Hugo comes full circle with certain aspects of filmmaking and is accompanied by a heartwarming story fit for all children and families.
Story/Plot – 17/20 Direction – 18/20 Acting - 17/20
Cinematography – 20/20 Score/Soundtrack – 17/20
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