Childhood is a phase of life full of dreams, innocence, spontaneity and simplicity. Have you ever observed children playing? They are immersed into their own little world of dreams. One of such dreamers is protagonist of the film ‘Hugo’, who meets another person who made dreams come alive on the screen. Martin Scorsese presents a children’s movie, which is of course more than that, a sneak peek into early years of cinema and touches his favourite topic of film preservation and restoration.
Hugo is a 12 year old orphan Parisian boy, who lives actually inside a big clock at Gare Montparnasse train station with his drunkard watch keeper uncle. As his uncle is missing Hugo starts living a secret life to avoid a life in an orphanage. He loves these great clocks, gears, levers and all machines by which he is surrounded. He is trying to reassemble and repair an automaton, which is the last thing his father was working on before dying in a fire accident. Hugo thinks that his father has left a message for him with this automaton and this is the only thing he cares about. But he gets caught by grumpy and dejected toy shop owner, Georges Melies, while procuring some spare parts needed for automaton. Melies confiscates a notebook from Hugo, containing sketches of automaton.
In between trying to get back the notebook from Melies, Hugo meets Goddaughter of Melies, Isabelle. She is an avid book reader and her thoughts, dreams and speech are influenced by books greatly. She dwells in fantasies of book and expresses her wish to go on some adventure. Hugo takes her to a film sneaking secretly into talkies, because she is forbidden by her godparents to watch films. In a failed attempt to get notebook, they come across some sketches undersigned by Papa Georges. Curiosity brings these two adolescents to a library, where they meet author and cinema lover Rene Tabard. Here movie gently shifts from a fictional track to factual one. After this movie becomes more engaging and a delight for eyes, bringing out loads of archived footages of films from early 1900s, giving a short introduction to cinema pioneers from Lumiere brothers, Edwin S. Porter, D.W.Griffith to Georges Melies. Georges Melies was a magician turned filmmaker, who introduced fantasy and sci-fi cinema to the world.
He produced over 500 short films but he got bankrupt after World War I. He sold his all film-reels, which were melted down to produce heels. He disappeared from public life and lived his later life as a toy shop owner. World was under impression that he died during World War. Tabard with the help of Hugo and Isabelle convinces Georges that he is one of the great filmmakers and still so many people appreciate his work. Hugo brings back the automaton, one of the creations of Georges himself, to Papa Georges. Moreover film has a happy ending in a film festival, where Georges thanks Hugo for his effort and invites world to dream with him again.
Throughout the movie we come across a broken automaton which represents dejected and aimless Georges Melies, a toy shop owner. Heart shape key is required to trigger action of automaton. Similarly passion about a thing/topic is needed in life and that is Movies for Georges. Scorsese tries to show us the film through the eyes of Hugo. Opening scene itself is evident for this fact. Hugo an orphan boy living within the boundaries of station is a reel life parallel of Young Scorsese, who was suffering from asthma and eventually confined to home. A scene in which Hugo observes Paris and explains about life as a giant machine and every part of it is having a purpose, is the core philosophy of life in a very simplified way.
“I’D IMAGINE THE WHOLE WORLD WAS ONE BIG MACHINE. MACHINES NEVER COME WITH ANY EXTRA PARTS, YOU KNOW. THEY ALWAYS COME WITH THE EXACT AMOUNT THEY NEED. SO I FIGURED IF THE ENTIRE WORLD WAS ONE BIG MACHINE, I COULDN’T BE AN EXTRA PART. I HAD TO BE HERE FOR SOME REASON. AND THAT MEANS YOU HAVE TO BE HERE FOR SOME REASON, TOO.”
Cinematographer Robert Richardson has given his best and 3D would have been a great treat to watch, but sadly I missed It. Art directors Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo built the set of train station from scratch at London’s Shepperton Studios. Thanks to Thelma Schoonmaker, editor, for keeping unnecessary subplots short. Music of Howard Shore has given authentic Parisian music and helps to build old classical environment needed for the movie. Screenplay is based on book titled “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick. This book consists of drawings of nearly 284 pages and about 200 pages of text. Screenplay writer Logan has wonderfully intertwined two stories with each other. First, story of Hugo and his father and second one is story of George Melies. He achieves swift but smooth transitions from Hugo’s past to present and in later part from George’s past to present without any dragging.
Scorsese with the help of efficient crew successfully brings out those long lost magical years on the screen vibrantly. In spite of the fact that Scorsese tries to give a message about film preservation & restoration through this movie, it never robs down entertainment value of movie. Scorsese pays an apt tribute to bygone era of cinema with a classic movie.
IT IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE FINEST MAGIC TRICK THAT EVER I HAVE SEEN!