Hugo (2011)

The Christmas Countdown (Day 11)

Hugo is available to rent or buy now.

Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, published in 2007, Scorsese’s Hugo is a technical marvel and a love letter to the birth of cinema, taking us back to the very foundations of the motion picture. Set amidst the hustle and bustle of Paris’ Montparnasse train station in the early 1930s, a young orphan, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), lives in the station’s clock tower, repairing and maintaining the clocks. Hugo has had a difficult life, losing his mother at a young age and then his clockmaker father (Jude Law) in a dreadful fire. As a result, Hugo is now alone, hiding in the train station’s walls and pilfering food while fearing the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen).

As Hugo attempts to repair an automaton his father was working on before his death, he steals parts from a shopkeeper who sells mechanical toys and magic tricks. However, unknown to Hugo, the shopkeeper is the legendary film director Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley, whose groundbreaking films are all but forgotten following the horror of the First World War. But when his goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz) and Hugo become friends, their mission to celebrate the work and life Georges keeps locked away is set in motion.

For those unaware of the place Georges Méliès holds in film history, let me briefly explain. Many will be aware of a silent film from 1902 entitled A Trip to the Moon; in this film, a rocket crashes into the face of the moon before we witness a group of explorers walk out onto the surface of the alien body. Directed by Georges Méliès, A Trip to the Moon remains one of film’s earliest examples of special effects and fantasy. Long before The Wizard of Oz brought technicolour to our screens, A Trip to the Moon was painstakingly hand-coloured, making the film the second colour movie ever made following Le Château hanté also directed by Méliès.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

To say Georges Méliès was one of the fathers of modern cinema is an understatement; after all, many of the effects we now take for granted in films were created by his hands. Here Méliès invented the split-screen, stop motion and jump-cut, taking us from the Lumière Brother’s love of real life to the fantastical and magical world cinema would later embrace. Méliès brought his skills as a theatre magician to the screen and, in turn, changed cinema forever. However, most of his work was burned following the First World War, and by 1925, Méliès was penniless, running a small toy booth in Paris’ Montparnasse train station. But history has been kinder, and Méliès has rightly regained his crown as a true pioneer of early cinema. Without Méliès, our cinematic world would be very different; he was a genius, a visionary and an artist without comparison. Hugo celebrates his life, artistry and vision through a fantastical clockwork world that Méliès would approve of.

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