Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hugo -- Martin Scorcese (director), John Logan (screenplay), Brian Selznick (book)

George Melies                             Ben Kingsley
Hugo Cabret                               Asa Butterfield
Isabelle                                       Chloe Grace Moretz
Mama Jeanne                              Helen McRory
Station Inspector                         Sacha Baron Cohen

Hugo Cabret is a twelve-year-old orphan who lives in the walls of the train station in Paris in the 1930s. His father was a watchmaker; his uncle maintained the clocks in the train station. They both taught Hugo their craft; his uncle has now disappeared. Hugo keeps his uncle's disappearance unnoticed by maintaining the clocks himself, and steals food from various vendors in the station to eat. He also has a few treasures rescued from his father's shop after his death, most importantly a life-sized clockwork man, and the notebook the elder Cabret kept of his efforts to repair the clockwork figure.

In addition to stealing food, Hugo also steals the occasional small clockwork toys and spare parts from the toymaker's shop in the train station, and this is where this charming story begins. Hugo makes one more attempt to steal a clockwork mouse, and the old toymakter, Monsieur Melies, catches him. He confiscates the little notebook Hugo has from his father, after accusing him of stealing it from--he has no idea, really, but he knows a twelve-year-old boy he's never met shouldn't have it. After some back and forth, Hugo winds up working for the toymaker to earn back his notebook. Along the way, he meets Melies' ward, Isabelle, who's a year or two older than Hugo, and they discover a mutual love of books. Isabelle has never seen a movie, because "Papa George" and his wife "Mama Jeanne" absolutely forbid movies, and he sneaks her into one.

Then they go to the library to find books on old movies--and discover that "Papa George" has a hidden, magical past.

This is a wonderful story about a clever, inventive boy, and a wonderful glimpse at the early history of the movies. Character development is subtle and compelling, and it's visually stunning.

Highly recommended.