Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hugo: Life in clockwork motion

I suppose the theme of this year’s Academy Awards had something to with Paris (or France). Why would three films—Midnight in Paris, The Artist and Hugo have a  French connection?

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the opening shot. Wonderfully created, it starts with parts of a clock in motion and segues into a scene of Paris at night. The camera then slowly moves into a railway station—Gare Montparnasse—and proceeds quickly like a train that is gathering momentum and focuses on a clock, from which a boy, Hugo Cabret, peers.

Hugo sees an old man, Georges Méliès, at his shop, where he sells and repairs toys. Hugo is an orphan and is effectively in charge of adjusting the time of the clock towers in the station—a job his uncle was supposed to be taking care of. Hugo is searching for something: a hidden message from his father, who died in a fire while he was working at the museum.

Hugo meets up with George’s goddaughter, Isabelle, who is craving for some adventure in her life, and together they have their own escapades.
Hugo’s obsession with an automaton passed onto him by his father leads Isabelle and him to discover Méliès’ secret—which is the turning point of the movie. The second half moves a lot quicker than the first and then the importance shifts to George from Hugo.

This film has delightful characters: Asa Butterfield as Hugo, the lonely orphan who travels through the station by ducts and roofs and pinches food from the station café while finding the missing pieces to the automaton; Ben Kingsley as Méliès, who initially comes across as cantankerous, but has a sorrow hidden inside; Sacha Baron Cohen as the overbearing but funny station inspector who fancies Emily Mortimer, the florist; and Frances de la Tour and Richard Griffiths, a pair of station workers who find love through their dogs. Jude Law plays Hugo’s dad in a blink-and-miss role, but he does justice to it.

Martin Scorsese has pulled a shocker in this one, that too in 3-D! Completely different from his signature films—Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, which focus on crime and violence—this one is a children’s delight and an adult’s fantasy.

Hugo is adapted from Brian Selznick's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by John Logan. The film’s background score, by Howard Shore, is haunting and stays with you long after you watch it.

Although Butterfield is the central character, after a point the movie is taken over by Kingsley, which seems partly unfair as this is primarily a children’s movie. Nevertheless Kingsley does what he is supposed to do, as he unconsciously did for Gandhi.

Hugo won five Oscars—for cinematography, art direction, visual effects, sound mixing, and sound editing.

Watch it for Scorsese who has given a gem of a movie, a roller-coaster ride into Hugo’s life, a fulfilling experience, and fall in love with it!

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