Martin Scorsese’s Moving Tribute to Cinema

Friday, 16 Dec 2011, 08:47


Recent comments

“HUGO” (in 3D)


Ben Kingsley                        Georges Melies

Sacha Baron Cohen              Station Inspector

Asa Butterfield                     Hugo Cabret

Chloe Grace Moretz             Isabelle

Jude Law                              Hugo’s Father

Ray Winstone                      Hugo’s Uncle

Emily Mortimer                   Lisette

Helen McRory                     Mme “Maman” Melies

Christopher Lee                   Monsieur Labisse

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Running time 126 minutes.

Martin Scorsese is not only one of the leading filmmakers of our times but also a film historian dedicated to preserving motion picture history through the restoration of classical films. Since he established The Film Foundation in 1990 together with other filmmakers including Robert Altman, Robert Redford, Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood, no less than 545 films have been restored and preserved for posterity. Mr Scorsese writes on The Film Foundation website’s home page: “Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision and change the way we see things. They take us to other places. They open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime.” This is precisely what Hugo, Scorsese’s moving tribute to cinema, is all about. Based on Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” adapted for the screen by John Logan, the film tells the story of twelve year old orphan Hugo (Asa Butterfield) who lives secretly in the clock tower of the Paris Montparnasse train station at the turn of the 20th century. Singlehandedly, the young lad winds the heavy clockwork, lubricates the pulleys and does all the chores to keep the giant time piece in accurate working order.

Hugo spends his little free time leafing through a notebook and searching for the missing pieces needed to make an automaton function. This human like mechanical figure of a man sitting at a desk with pen in hand was discovered in a museum by his father (Jude Law) a clock maker who died in an accident and is Hugo’s dearest link with his memory of family love. He sneaks out of his secret quarters into the bustle of the busy station to steal the odd croissant or apple for his survival and pick small toys for their clockwork needed to repair his robot. Hugo’s luck is out when the grumpy owner of the station’s toy stall catches him stealing and, after demanding to see the notebook he clutches; he takes it away from him. The boy is lost without his father’s precious notes that hold the automaton’s designs. Determined to have his notebook back, after closing time, he follows the old man’s home where a girl his age comes to the door and agrees that she is ready to help him. The girl is Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), an orphan like Hugo brought up by the old man she calls Pappa Georges (Ben Kingsley) and his wife Mama Jeanne (Helen McRory).

Hugo and Isabelle begin a beautiful adventure. She produces the key that finally sets the robot in motion. The robot’s pen sketches a space capsule that is stuck in the moon’s left eye and scribbles underneath a signature that reads Georges Melies. This is where Martin Scorsese begins to unfold the story of the French pioneer filmmaker Melies whose A Trip to the Moon filmed in 1902 stays as a point of reference in film history. Through the adventures of Hugo and Isabelle, Martin Scorsese takes us on a detailed historic journey of the first years of cinema. From their escape to a small cinema to watch the runaway train causing panic amongst the audience watching the Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat  filmed in1897by the brothers Lumiere to the film’s denouement where George Melies , Isabelle’s foster parent magnificently played by Ben Kingsley, reveals to a biographer his real artistic life and the special effect techniques he invented. The man who was hailed as the magician of cinema says at one point “If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around: this is where they’re made.” Martin Scorsese picks the cue and shows us how these were made in meticulously reconstructed sequences of the first feature films created on stage with rudimentary and ridiculous props and tricks.

Scorsese’s Hugo is a family film shot in 3D, a radical departure from his traditional blood soaked dramas like Cape Fear, Good Fellas and Gangs of New York. In spite of the enormous difference in the nature of the subject matter, Scorsese’s fingerprint is all over his new film that can only be described as a great labour of love. He uses breathtaking photography and creates impressive sets to shoot sequences that pay homage to films ranging from the silent era with one particular episode where Hugo hangs for his life to a gigantic clock arm very high above the ground just like Harold Lloyd did in Safety First back in 1923 to modern day disaster/ action movies with a spectacular sequence of a runaway train cutting wildly through the crowded station, perhaps  in another respectful nod to  la Ciutat already mentioned.

Another striking feature of this film is the cast assembled by Scorsese. Apart from the American young actress Chloe Grace Moretz who plays Isabelle, the main characters are played by British Actors. Ben Kingsley gives a touching and excellent performance as the film making genius brought to ruin. Sacha Baron Cohen brings in a big dose of humour as the no nonsense Station Inspector who, accompanied by a nasty Rottweiler, divides his time between tracking wayward orphans pilfering inside the station and courting Lisette the shy florist played by another Briton, Emily Mortimer. Eighty nine year old Christopher Lee, with his imposing figure and deep voice, is the kind librarian Monsieur Labisse who gives Hugo and Isabelle a free run of his library and encourages them to love books. Young Asa Butterworth moves from his remarkable performance in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to another fine performance as Hugo, the protagonist around whom the secret story of Georges Melies is developed.

Marin Scorsese’s   filmography and achievement list include an impressive number of international award nominations and wins. In a career that began in the early seventies he directed 52 films that earned him a total of 94 international awards. Nominated seven times for the Best Director Academy Award, he finally won his well deserved Oscar with The Departed in 2006. Hugo must see him earning his eighth Best Director nomination and, at least this is what I hope and wish for, his second win with a great film that comes out of the heart and mind of one of the greatest and most eclectic filmmakers of our times. The nominations for the 69th Golden Globe Awards announced on Thursday 15 December include “Hugo” in the Best Film category and Martin Scorsese is running for the Best Director Award.

If you are looking for a Christmas cinema treat Hugo is the film for you. Do not miss it


With acknowledgements to KRS Film Distributors Ltd

Link to trailer: 



(all fields are required)
Write the word
in the textbox
below it.
This Is CAPTCHA Image
Comments (0)

Turning Television ideas into Reality with Executive Producer Katie Newman

Brief encounters with animals and science fiction

Children's Cinema Day

Malta Cine Circle’s annual National Film Competition

Young birdwatcher releases 2012 film

Weekly film reviews

Weekly film reviews

Weekly film reviews

Weekly film reviews

Weekly Film Reviews