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#29. Hugo - Review

Hugo Poster 2011Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a love letter to film, and the cinefiles that adore the history of the medium. So enchanting is the story of the titular orphan and his indomitable will that the small world the film takes place, almost entirely within the walls of a Paris train station, is majestically simple and yet staggeringly absorbing. Those seeking uncomplicated children’s fare may feel somewhat overwhelmed by Hugo’s weighty aspirations. It strives for more than the undemanding emotional highs that endear Pixar films to so many, and expects far more from its audience than the common family film.

Hugo 2011The son of a clock-maker, 12-year old Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is forced to live with his loutish alcoholic uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) when his father is killed in an unfortunate, and somewhat mysterious, museum fire. Hugo becomes Claude’s apprentice as the caretaker of all the clocks at a busy Paris train station. For their services the duo receives free room and board at the depot, living and sleeping amidst the thunderous reverberations of the giant, ever-turning gears. Claude quickly abandons Hugo at the station, leaving the mechanical prodigy to tend to all of the depot’s timekeeping. Realizing it is either the station or the orphanage, Hugo successfully orchestrates a shadowy existence within the walls and crevices of the train station. He survives by stealing croissants from the local bakery, rummages crumbs from preoccupied passengers, all the while avoiding the attention of the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). Hugo’s only friend is also the only thing he has to remember his father by, a broken metallic automaton that the pair was in the middle of repairing before the fire.

Hugo Automaton 2011This peculiar little robot is where my synopsis must end, for explaining any more of Hugo’s many spinning gears would be a terrible disservice, especially for those with any affection for cinema’s silent beginnings. Scorsese constructs his film not unlike the evolution of his medium. The first 20-minutes or so are heavily reminiscent of early silent movies, relying on the expressive faces of Butterfield and Cohen to reveal the setting. It is probably not a mistake that in many scenes Butterfield’s large blue eyes reminded me of Buster Keaton’s haunting gaze. As the film progresses so to does its cinematic style, evoking stalwart reminders of cinema’s evolutionary timeline.

Of course this is Scorsese’s film, and yet unlike any feature film he has ever created. Reminiscent of the obvious passion he has for the subjects in his documentaries, I was pleasantly impressed by the director’s flair for family friendly fun. His 1930s Paris is stunningly gorgeous, and yet not overtly relied upon to dazzle the audience. Instead the majority of the film takes place inside the bustling train station, with cafés and flower shops assembled in such away as to echo familiar images of lively Paris corners seen in countless films from the past.

Hugo is a unique experience in an era of dumb downed cinematic exploits. Scorsese demands a level of patience and awareness from his audience, refusing to treat any patrons like infants. Hugo is built upon the foundation of Scorsese’s love of cinema and storytelling, and those willing to invest in his valiant Hugo Cabret will be rewarded with a prize rarely experienced in not only film, but in all media: genuineness. 

Sacha Baron Cohen in Hugo 2011This film deserves more consideration and admiration than I can provide presently, but I can all but guarantee Hugo will inspire both dedicated study and unabashed hyperbolic praise for years to come. Please let me know what you thought of Scorsese’s latest in the comment’s section below, and tell me if I am correct in my love for this film, or have just been duped by a crafty and manipulative filmmaker. Also, please help out the site by clicking the “Share” button below and linking this review to your favorite social networks! 

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Reader Comments (2)

I'm excited to go see this!

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScraps

I'd say I'm much more easily duped than you may be, but I absolutely loved this.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScraps

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