PG, 126 min.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: John Logan, Brian Selznick (book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ray Winstone, Jude Law
This movie is a cineaste’s dream! I knew that upon my initial screening in theaters, but seeing it a second time unlocks even more secrets from its meticulous homage to everything cinema.
What I find most pleasurable about this film as a film buff is the way Martin Scorsese is able to work in every form of film making imaginable. You’ll find the more rudimentary techniques highlighted early on in the film. Probably the most primitive movie making technique is found when Georges first takes the notebook from Hugo. It is a technique that all children learn. In the notebook, which was originally written by Georges, Hugo has drawn pictures in the lower right page corners. When you flip through them backwards it gives the illusion of an animated being. I remember drawing little flipbooks with stick figures as a kid.
A little later Georges tests Hugo’s clockwork skills by having him assemble a broken windup toy. When he tests the toy, it would’ve been just as easy for Scorsese to use a real windup toy prop to show Hugo’s success. He also could’ve use CGI animation if he couldn’t find a practical prop that did what he wanted it to. Instead Scorsese employs stop motion animation to show the windup toy performing its tricks.
Later in the film, we see a train crash that has been filmed with miniatures. He uses overlays and iris fades. All these techniques are obsolete in this day and age of digital film technologies, but Scorsese employs them as part of his ode to cinema and we can feel his joy of cinema as a result.