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MOVIE REVIEW: Hugo 3D

Submitted by on December 2, 2011 – 10:13 am2 Comments
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In the middle of Martin Scorsese‘s stunningly visual and entertaining Hugo, I found myself thinking of Steampunk. This scifi/fantasy genre from the 90s and 2000s reimagined the modern world as if technology was still mechanical, instead of digital. So computers, home appliances, and even fashion from the movement are covered with gears, motors, and a visible mess of moving parts, instead of the smooth and sleek cover of an iPhone.

This minor trend might not appear to have a lot in common with the latest from the iconic director, but at the heart (or central motor) of both is the nostalgic desire to strip away the false covers of modern life and see the inner workings of being human.

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphaned boy who lives in a Paris train station in the 1930s, stealing food and maintaining the clocks. A broken automated figurine possibly holds a message from his deceased machinist father (Jude Law), and sets him on a path to unlock the secret of a bitter old magician who may be his last chance for help.

This movie is also largely about the lost appreciation and preservation of silent films (a pet cause of Scorsese’s). The scenes depicting the studio of real-life film pioneer Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley) are some of its most gripping and magical.

The world of Hugo is a brilliant dream of the past brought to life, with an attention to visual detail that only Scorsese (and his budgets) could have created. I don’t always pay a lot of attention to the Production Designer, but Dante Ferretti deserves a lot of recognition for the costumes, artwork, sets, landscapes, and even hairstyles that saturate the film.

As Hugo struggles to repair the mechanical man his father left, the imagery of the exposed gears that pervade almost every shot in the film becomes more obvious: fixing the broken machine is infinitely easier than fixing a broken human. Humans don’t come with their workings visible, and their gears can’t just be wound until eternity. As a World War and the disappointments of life strip away the characters’ sense of wonder (be it manifested in books, magic, silent films, or other people), they turn even further inward.

But this film is a fantasy meant to take us on an adventure, and everyone finds a way to repair that central motor in the end.

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2 Comments »

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