Hugo – A trip to the Roots of Cinema

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a lovely film that takes you through a journey of the early cinema by a young boy named Hugo Cabret.

Even though “Hugo” seems like a movie for young adults and children, I strongly believe it’s a cinematic delight for the cinephile adults. Martin Scorsese’s film that won 5 Oscars, Hugo, is a family fantasy adventure in 3D. It is an ironic yet really clever way of approaching to the early cinema made with the craftsmanship of illusion with the new worlds technology 3D.

The film is a piece of art which seems like a Spielberg in the beginning of the film with the machines’ evil side, however when the key of heart is introduced to work the automaton, it turns into a magical Scorsese film which points about the love for films. There are lots of allusions to great pioneers like Fritz Lang and George Melies himself.

The first act starts with the introduction of Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who lives in the train station, winding all the station clocks. As he has no parents, he spends most of his time running away from the “evil” inspector, Sacha Baron Cohen who locks up the kids to send them to orphanage. Most of the film takes place at the train station. To see the train station in 3D reinforces the film’s reality, which is a reference to the Lumiere Brother’s first 50-second film showing the arrival of the train at Ciotat Station.

After Hugo’s father’s death (Jude Law) he is left with only one thing, an automaton, which is about to get him together with an adventurous girl, named Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). Isabelle lives with her mysterious grandfather, who is later introduced to the audience as the great pioneer George Melies. The plot has a theme of mechanisms. How Paris works like a great mechanism after the war and our protagonist Hugo, trying to fix this mechanism to make it work perfectly.

The camera work is also great, as the movement flows through the events rather than sharp cuts that might break the spirit of magic. Pace of the film moves slow maintaining the mood of “The world of Imagination”. In the mise-en-scene, brown colour plays the lead role as it portrays a depressed Paris after the war. Lighting is usually kept low-key accompanied with soft focus creating a mysterious atmosphere in the first act.

In the second act, a great mystery resolves, the toyshop owner is actually the great film maker Melies. After he is introduced, the time of the film changes from late 60s to 30s. In 1930s France, the destroying affects of the war can clearly be seen in the film and Melies is just one of the people who has to give up from their dreams, in Melies’s situation; from making films. With the war conditions he burns all his films, which are later, turned in to heels of women’s shoes. As the film portrays the fact that time is so harsh on movies, there are great scenes that gives audience butterflies in their stomach. One of the most beautiful scenes is when Melies says, “I would recognize the sound of a movie projector anywhere!”. It really is a great moment for the cinephiles, the remembrance of the great film history. The old-fashioned way of art, and its beauty of craftsmanship.

There is a character in the film that is not talked a lot about, Melies’ admirer Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg). As the camera swifts through Tabard’s collection of Melies, the magical moment begins. The magic of the early films: How they are made, how each scene is hand painted. Tabard plays a small role yet very effective one indeed. He lights a bulb in our heads on how important the art of film is, and how hard it tries to survive from its biggest enemy, time.

Another great idea of the film is how the world of books, portrayed by Isabelle and the world of films, portrayed by Hugo, work like a great mechanism. As Isabelle and Hugo walks in to the bookstore, one can smell the fresh scent of a new book. Of course the amazing acting of Christopher Lee (Monsieur Labisse) adds in to this magical moment.

As a sum up, It is clearly pointed out that the craftsmanship of cinema in early days deserves a great respect and shall never be forgotten. “Hugo” is a great piece of art that only Scorsese would portray this magical. It emphasizes the birth of the cinema and combines it with the survival of the great films through time by the very-talented story telling of Scorsese.

Benan Demir loves blogging about all things film