hugoFor Love Of The Cinema



Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sir Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Helen McCrory, Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee
Director: Martin Scorsese
Scriptwriter: John Logan from the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick
Composer: Howard Shore
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Paramount/GK Films
Rating: PG for minor peril
3 D
Running Length: 128 minutes
For movie-goers who thought they would never see another film that pays homage to movies as Cinema Paradise, guess again. Director Martin Scorsese has taken the children’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and with scriptwriter John Logan, adapted it to the screen as a loving homage to the pioneers of the motion picture. Here, it is about the early French movie-maker, Georges Melies (played superbly by Sir Ben Kingsley). You will remember Melies’ short silent film with a classic photo of the Man-in-the-Moon and a space ship sticking out of one eye. This is explained in the movie.  There is an intricate plot concerning an orphan (Asa Butterfield) living in a Paris train station, the obsessive police officer chasing him (Sacha Baron Cohen and I didn't recognize him), the girl befriending the orphan (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her godfather and his wife (Kingsley and Helen McCrory.) Along the way are rich characters, who, with a few lines are able to let you really see them, a train station with clocks everywhere, and an eye-popping  Paris about 1920. Though the film is in 3 D, it does not have to be seen in 3 D to become involved with the storyline.
Part of the story is told through flashbacks as we learn about Hugo, who lives under the train station, steals food and winds the clocks. His father (Jude Law) is gone and Hugo lives with an uncle (Ray Winstone.) When the uncle goes missing, Hugo stays on to wind the clocks and hide from the police (Sacha Baron Cohen as a disabled police officer with a nasty-tempered Doberman). Hugo has an automaton, made like a small boy. It is broken and Hugo is stealing parts to try to fix it. This one has the workings of a clock and holds a pen, so perhaps Hugo’s late father left it to write a message? Hugo is chased and sometimes caught by the police officer, befriended by Isabelle (Morentz), meets her godfather’s wife (Helen McCrory) and the godfather/owner of the shop Hugo steals from (Kingsley). Everyone harbors a secret and when they begin to tell, Hugo can unravel the threads of the automaton and his past. There are narrow escapes, dodging the policeman and his nasty Doberman and trying to break through to Kingsley, who really wants to forget his past. Along the way, we find that Isabelle has never been to see a movie, so Hugo sneaks her in to see a Harold Lloyd picture and from then on, films become a backdrop to Hugo’s story. What happens behind the scenes for special effects in the early 1900’s silent film era, is exquisite storytelling. A true labor of love with a cinematic ending.
Hugo is rated PG for moments of peril, but at over two hours, it may not hold the interest for kids under age 8.  There are scenes that could have bee shortened, such as taking Hugo on his usual route through the train station to his hidden room, the police officer and his Doberman, and Hugo trying to steal food. The backdrops of Paris have a warm glow like a Kinkead painting and the intricate clocks at the train station are wonderfully wrought. Howard Shore’s soundtrack balances the action on the screen.
As far as acting, Sir Ben Kingsley seems to be having the time of his life. Who wouldn't when directed by Martin Scorsese and playing Georges Melies? Asa Butterfield can act, but his large eyes (think a young Elijah Wood here) can be overpowering and the same with Chloe Grace Moretz. It’s like staring at two headlights. Sir Ben is at his best in the Melies role when he is a young man directing movies. The passion for visual storytelling can be an obsession.
I went to Hugo cold, without knowing the storyline or book. Was I pleasantly surprised as 1920’s Paris unfolded in front of me complete with an automated man and silent films that used surprising effects. Those who catch the acting bug and its first cousin, the love-of-the-cinema-in-any-form bug, will be entranced by “Hugo.” Watching people around me in the film screening I attended, you could see interest (sees a film a month), avid interest (sees a film a week) and the see-everything-that-opens movie fan. None of them said a word during Hugo, and all clapped at the end. Enjoy.
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner