Broken Spirits Renewed - a Child and an Artist Saved
Director Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Brian Selznick's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" into the fantastic film "Hugo" was a brilliant stroke of passion for the edgy director of quite a few gritty, pathologically violent films, such as: "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas," "Gangs of New York" and "The Departed". Director Scorsese's departure from his normal "stock in trade" was not his first, having directed the psychological thriller "Shutter Island," the excellent biopic, "The Aviator," and the documentary "The Last Waltz" of the The Band's last concert, was well paced, well acted and beautifully shot. Hugo was a film of rare quality, and yet does not overwhelm one to the point of labeling the film a perfect classic.
And even though I am not comfortable in declaring the film an overarching classic, it did inspire me to view the film, at some point, a second time just to enjoy Scorsese's ocular feast, and see what I may have missed from the first run. The venerable director is known for leaving little narrative nuggets laying around to add just a bit to the depth of his stories told in celluloid. In "Hugo," "me thinks" it will be the Georges Méliès sub-story, which actually gave the story's creator, Brian Selznick the presence of mind to write "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."
Georges Méliès, played by the incredibly gifted actor Ben Kinsley, was once the first, and most popular film maker in France, which is embellished in this film and very much true. The film also depicted the elderly filmmaker / inventor as a man broken in spirit, and the owner of a small toy shop in a recess of the cavernous Gare Montparnasse train station in Paris. It was a far ride downward for the film pioneer, whose creative instincts led him to be the first director to use cinemagraphic trickery to further a story's progress on film. This was the root beginning of the computer graphics ("C.G."), which is now a staple of the film story process. Even this film, "Hugo," used computer graphics abundantly - interweaving "C.G." with the actors' actions to give precise illusion in scope and clarity of mid 1920's Paris.
As the film begins, one is most understandably set to believe the film is all about Hugo: the orphaned, 12 year old boy, whose curiosity, and work ethic keeps him out of the orphanage. Couple the aforementioned resourceful characteristics, with the remarkable fact that Hugo, played by the captivating Asa Butterfield (wonderful in the "Boy in the Striped Pajamas"), also has an animatron, that he is determined to repair to working order, and you have to know that the titular Hugo is the overwhelming sole subject of this film. Not so fast. In "Hugo," dual characters of overwhelming interest, including the broken Georges Méliès, control the path of this story to the wonderful end, and both characters were deeply intertwined in plot long before George caught Hugo stealing spare sprockets, screw and gears to repair the animatron, left to him by his deceased father, played sparingly by Jude Law.
After his father's passing, Hugo was whisked away to the Gare Montparnasse train station in Paris by his Uncle Claude, another small role, like Actor Law's, played by Ray Winstone. Uncle Claud is a total lush, and the one guy that keeps the many clocks, some huge and run by working gears. When he leaves, after teaching the pre-adolescent all the particulars of running the clocks (obviously a quick learner), the reprobate of an uncle goes on a terminal drinking binge, leaving Hugo once again alone.