Based on Brian Selznick’s graphic novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a departure from his other works. It follows Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), a twelve-year-old orphan who resides in the Gare Montparnasse railway station in Paris, as he attempts to complete his late father’s final project.
Following the death of his father in a museum fire and the disappearance of his alcoholic uncle, Hugo hides himself in a maze of ladders and passages while continuing his uncle’s job of maintaining the clockworks of the railway station. To avoid being sent to an orphanage, he must do all of this while remaining undetected by the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). Hugo’s most prized possession is the automaton his father found in a museum attic. Guided by the insight of his father’s notebook, he reconstructs the automaton by stealing bits of machinery from the shop of the toymaker, Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley). One day, the harsh toymaker catches Hugo stealing from him and confiscates his notebook. He looks through it and is deeply affected by it. He threatens to destroy it and Hugo follows him to his house.
After failing to persuade Georges, Hugo meets his goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), and she promises to help him get his notebook back. Georges tells Hugo that he may earn his notebook back if he works to pay for the items he stole. Meanwhile, Hugo’s work on the automaton is completed with the exception of a missing piece: a heart-shaped key that starts the machine. Hugo and Isabelle grow closer as they try to unravel the mysterious relationship between Georges and the notebook.
The world of Hugo is a fantastic blend of realism and myth. From the elaborate design of the railway station to the flashbacks that trace the history and career of Georges, viewers cannot help but be pulled in with childlike wonder. Hugo is a celebration of the birth of cinema and a humbling homage to this timeless art form.
NUFEC is screening Hugo at AfterHours on Friday at 7pm, more info here.