Hugo (2011)

Scorsese’s masterpiece. I wish I had seen it in 3D when it was out in theaters!

I had always wanted to see it on Netflix – even reading their brief description. I get panicky around the times that Netflix decides to take series and films off their website. I literally cried so hard that I vomited when I found that King of the Hill had been taken off Netflix. 1) I was in love with that show 2) The series hasn’t been released on DVDs in its entirety, which is hurtful to me.

Somehow, I felt like this was not going to be on much longer, but I can’t imagine why.

Like a typical Scorsese film it was incredibly long. 2 hours. Unlike The Wolf of Wallstreet, the pacing seemed drawn out but it was never boring.

Summary (spoilers):

The film is about a boy named Hugo Cabret who lives in between the walls of a Parisien train station in the 1930’s, after WWI, but before WWII. He maintains the clocks to keep them precise. This skill was taught to him by his father, who was Jude Law and was a clock maker. Hugo goes around stealing food to eat and gears and parts for clocks from this toy store in the station. One day he is caught and has his father’s notebook taken away. The contents of this notebook are revealed to be of an automaton that can write. The owner of the toy store, Georges (played by Ben Kingsley, holy crap!) says he will burn the notebook, which sends Hugo into tearfully begging that his notebook be returned.

Hugo runs into Georges’s god-daughter, Isabelle. She said she’d make sure that the notebook wasn’t burned and brings him into a book shop owned by Christopher Lee’s rich voice. Hugo, speaking fondly of his father, finds out that Isabelle has never seen a film. So Hugo sneaks her into one of Harold Lloyd‘s films (which is great, because I recognized him as the film didn’t actually say).

Isabelle is a key character (haha) as Hugo learns that she carries one of the parts that he needs to repair the automaton. When Isabelle gives him the piece, this magical, metallic being begins to move. It starts drawing. The drawing turns out to be a scene from La Voyage dans la Lune, signed Georges Melies – Isabelle’s godfather and one of the pioneers of film.

They travel to a large library full of films and information. They read through a book which confirms that Papa Georges’s identity. They run into a man, Rene, at the library who was convinced that Melies had died in the Great War but Isabelle and Hugo are insistent that he is alive. Rene brings a small projector to Isabelle’s house, where she lives with Georges and his wife Jeanne. They watch La Voyage dans la Lune in secret – Georges wanted to forget the fact that it was his film and that he ever made films. It is revealed that once the Great War was at hand and when it had ended, film tastes had changed so drastically he was forced to sell off his possessions, which is when he bought the store in the station. His greatest creation was the automaton that Hugo had fixed. Hugo brings it to Georges which makes him light up. There was no need to him to repress his memories any longer.

Everything else:

1) Beautiful film. The designs were gorgeous. There was a lot to look at. The clock motif that was used was brilliantly applied to literal clocks to the purpose of life.

2) Georges Melies was amazing. They took a lot of facts from his life, and that of his wife Jeanne, and used it. A lot of it was true. His whole history, his works, his downfall. The greatest thing was that Scorsese placed in scenes where Georges was actually filming. He recreated the designs and props that were ACTUALLY used by Georges. That is incredible and shows a tremendous amount of respect. Ben Kingsley even looked a lot like Melies did.

3) Hugo’s a cute kid, but he’s still a kid. So a lot of what he did was childish, but he carried himself in an incredibly adult manner. Scorsese had a lot of close up shots that lingered (maybe too long) on Hugo’s face so you could see he was thinking about what to do next. It didn’t really feel like acting at all.

4) The station officer, played by Sacha Baron Cohen was hilarious and tragic. He was this cross between Inspector Javert and the guy from Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang that hated children so he loaded them up into a wagon to kill them, or something. He played a pretty integral part towards the end. He had a dog named Maximilian.

5) The train station was the perfect setting. Yes, one of the first films ever made was the Lumiere brother’s A Train arrives at La Ciotat. And people who saw it did panic because they thought the train was going to hit them. It was like how we see 3D. Their film repeated several times throughout Hugo.

I don’t know what else to say. It was well done. There was a lot of fast and slow pacing scenes that fit together perfectly. I would definitely recommend this film on Netflix for those who want to be enchanted. It mixes in elements of fact with fantasy – just like Melies’s films. I love that this film was based on a Melies and explored the impact that Melies had on film. It sort of just wraps up like a warm burrito. Half biography/half fantasy. And the facts were easy to verify and pull apart from what was made up. And in spite of it not being 100% fact-based, the film did not seem to drop in quality or make me question the validity of what I was watching. I didn’t have a need to search for facts in the middle of the movie. I just let my thoughts simmer into what I wanted to put into a blog piece.

Certain details stick out at you. It’s funny because the plot was rather linear with some flash backs, but my mind seems to remember it in a different order, with more prominent scenes first. Little details like flowers or bread or pictures keep your curiosity. I don’t know what else to say. It was phenomenal. Great for children and adults alike, especially those who studied film. I studied French film, so I had the best of both worlds with this.

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2 thoughts on “Hugo (2011)

    • I think Isabelle made a reference to Les Mis when they were running around the walls to evade capture by the Inspector. That Inspector was one messed up dude.

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