Martin Scorsese Gets to the Heart of 'Hugo'

Manila Bulletin, February 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Martin Scorsese Gets to the Heart of 'Hugo'


MANILA, Philippines - Regardless of the Oscar buzz surrounding Martin Scorsese's latest opus, "Hugo," in its heart it is more a story of dreams-forgotten and rekindled-as much as it is about the human search for connections, a sense of belonging and, yes, even inspiration. The man behind the camera, a master of the genre himself, Scorsese himself is touched by the story of the young Hugo Cabret [played in the movie by Asa Butterfield], the orphan boy who lives in a Paris railway station in Brian Selznick's children's novel, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."

Four years ago, the book landed on Scorsese's lap. He sat down to read it and couldn't put the book down. "It was particularly the vulnerability of a child alone that was striking," the director notes. "Hugo's living in the walls of this giant engine of a sort-the train station-on his own, and he's trying to make that connection with his father, whom he has lost."

But the story takes a decidedly different turn by its second half, and it is here that the resonance to the boy's loneliness has taken a deeper meaning to Scorsese, just as it could be the case for many movie fans. For behind this orphan boy's story lies a magical world where dreams are captured and made true on screen. The boy's search for the last message from his father yields a sort of movie history lesson to viewers as well-particularly that of George Melies (1861-1938), a French illusionist and filmmaker who rose to fame in the earliest days of cinema. Melies had been so enamored by cinema at a time when even the Lumiere brothers thought motion pictures were just a passing fancy.

Scorsese says, "There was an immediate connection to the story of the boy, his loneliness, his association with the cinema, with the machinery of creativity. The mechanical objects in the film, including cameras, projectors, and automatons, make it possible for Hugo to reconnect with his father. And mechanical objects make it possible for the filmmaker Georges Melies to reconnect with his past, and with himself."

Far from his other master works like "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Goodfellas," "Gangs of New York," and "The Departed," this is the director's first foray into a family picture shot in 3D, no less. While it is less a fantasy as the trailer might suggest, the movie doesn't require much from its audience in terms of expectation other than a healthy dose of wonderment. He even shared the book with his youngest daughter, with whom he "re-experienced the work," much like "rediscovering the work of art again, but through the eyes of a child."

Selznick, the author, himself recalls how his book came about. "At some point I remember seeing 'A Trip to the Moon,' the mesmerizing 1902 film by Georges Melies, and the rocket that flew into the eye of the man in the moon lodged itself firmly in my imagination," he shares. …

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