Friday, October 11, 2013


Poster of Hugo (Courtesy:

Hugo is charming. It is almost like a Dickens’ novel comes to life at a Paris railway station. A David Copperfield with just a dash of The Little Princess in her attic and a Javertesque Inspector.

Hugo Cabret is a nine year old fascinated with and with a felicity for machines, especially broken ones. A young boy with simple dreams and simpler ambitions. His world comes crashing around his ears when his father – a cameo by Jude Law – dies in a fire at the museum, where he worked. Hugo inherits from him, a love for mechanics and an automaton that was languishing in the museum storeroom, before father and son duo started to lovingly restore it.

Orphaned, Hugo has to become an apprentice to his uncle, who keeps and maintains clocks around the railway station for a living. When the drunkard uncle disappears, Hugo takes his place clandestinely and evading the strict and sharp eyes of the Station Inspector with a wooden leg and a mean dog. The Inspector’s mission in life seems to be to find orphans and consign them to their rightful place – an orphanage. The only thing that makes him humane is the secret crush he has on the flower girl at the station.

All this while, Hugo continues working on the automaton, trying to find the missing piece of the puzzle, in the hope that his father would have left him a message through the automaton. His life changes once more when George Melies, the toyshop owner at the railway station catches him, trying to steal some machine parts.

To say more is to give up the delightful secrets that the movie hides. I just got to know that the movie is based a book called The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik. I hope that the book is even more delightful.

The movie, meanwhile, is simple but scattered with gems that surprise you. The sneaking about of Hugo and Georges’ god-daughter, Isabelle, around the station and their sheer delight in watching the pictures move at a cinema hall. The gentle training that the middle aged French lady gives to the smitten Station Inspector on how to woo the flower girl. The lady’s own blooming romance with the portly gentleman, who is unfortunately not equally liked by her beloved pet. The day-to-day scenes at the station, through the eyes of a clock.

You smile, you cry with this simple tale of loss, victory, perseverance and miracles. The miracle of finding yourself and your dreams in unexpected ways. Of not giving up hope. Believing that there is a purpose in everything, like Hugo tells Isabelle, against the stunning backdrop of Paris in twilight. Great words from the mouth of a babe, yet they never seem strained, rehearsed because this child has seen more, lived more than lot of us.

The actors are all very good – from the seasoned Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies to Asa Butterfield who plays Hugo – but I think it is the triumph of the story and Scorsese’s consummate skill that everyone shines equally in this lovely, lovely movie.

I watched the movie on a long distance flight and I think it would be one of my most cherished memories from the trip.

1 comment:

  1. I loved everything about this movie. Rather than simply echo your comments above, I would add my admiration for the lighting and cinematography, which lend the entire picture a soft, timeless glow. As a bit of a geek, I also adored the mechanical props: the automaton and the clock mechanism were beautifully created.

    This movie pleases on so many levels: as a child's movie it contains tragedy, secrecy, friendship, cool objects and places, a villain, and the spicy pleasure of hiding from adults in a very public place. As an adult, I appreciate the subtlety and poetry of direction which creates a film which entrances without needing to feature giant robots knocking down cities.