Like most of the great directors, Martin Scorsese is as much a cinephile as he is a creative. With Hugo, he stepped away from his signature hard-bitten explorations of crime and machismo for a loving tribute to the great filmmakers who came before him.
Released in 2011, Hugo was a tricky movie to market – was it a straightforward family film, or a highbrow prestige picture? Ultimately, despite eleven Oscar nominations (and five wins), the film lost money at the box office. However, in the long run it might just come to be seen as one of the director’s greatest and most heartfelt achievements.
The film tells the story of Hugo Cabret, a young boy living alone in Montparnasse station in Paris, where he secretly keeps the clocks running while working on a mechanical mystery left behind by his late father. After a run-in with embittered toy store owner Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley, redeeming himself here for his horrible turn in The Love Guru), Hugo teams up with the old man’s precocious god-daughter and sets out on an adventure that stretches back to the dawn of cinema itself.
As the film develops, it reveals itself as a charming blend of fairytale and stealth movie history lesson, incorporating the creation of early motion pictures such as A Trip To The Moon. One of the best meta-elements is the incorporation of 3D effects to recreate the disorienting effect the first moving films would have had on audiences in the early 20th century. The 3D comeback of the early 2010s seems to have petered out again – at least until Avatars 2, 3 4 and 5 finally arrive – but the technology is deployed well here, enjoyable if you can access it, but not distracting if you can’t.
On this week’s episode, we compare notes on the film and pick out some highlights, including canine romance, the mysterious death of Jude Law and the rare instance of a cinematic dream within a dream. We also suggest some drinking games, check in with our listeners for their reactions and pitch some sequel ideas to turn Hugo into something we know Scorsese would approve of – a franchise!
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Next week, we’re staying in our classic cinema lane with a return to the class of 1950. Until then, happy listening and remember – never wind an automaton without providing a clean sheet of paper!