– How was Martin Scorsese influenced for his work on Hugo –

Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film,  based off of a graphic novel by Brian Selznick, which follows a young boy, orphaned and left living within the walls of a train station located in Paris – where he tends to the station clocks and works alone to bring back to life an Automaton that his father left him after his death. Whilst stealing parts for Hugo’s Automaton, he is disturbed by a toy salesman/magician alongside his goddaughter who in capture Hugo into a surreal world unknown to him, spiralling into an adventure through the works of George Méliès, the ‘grandfather of science fiction making’.

Scorsese put a beautiful spin on the film, by giving George Méliès his own character within the film, allowing the audience to get involved in the magical adventure, exploring some of his most admirable pieces of work – prompting the story of his life that Scorsese shares with the audience. Throughout the film, it seems that there are two different storylines running alongside each other, which Martin switches between, with an open introduction to Hugo and his life, which I felt ultimately withered into a story that was focused solely on Méliès. The only thing that ties these two stories together is Scorsese’s ability to apply contextual knowledge to the film – for example, Hugo is keeping a broken Automaton, when George is known to have worked with Automatons when he specialised in Magic, giving Scorsese the link that he needs in order to bring the two characters together, along with the sentimental value that Méliès films have to Hugo and his deceased father. It was only  due to having looked at Georges work before as part of my project that I was aware of his part within the blockbuster, although something about me wasn’t expectant to see Méliès have a leading character. As we get taken on a journey through George’s life, we get to see how he built up his own empire, the strong work ethic that he had, amongst the immense talent that he held. Later on in the film as we get to know more about George Méliès and his career, we are shown flashbacks to when he was first exposed to cinematography in the early 1890’s, when Louis and Auguste Lumiere (the Lumiere brothers) first showcased the worlds first commercial movie screening, using a camera projector which they called the Cinematographe. After viewing the screening, Méliès soon fell in awe with the art and began the steps in which lead to his mass success within the industry. I feel that Scorsese worked well with all of this information, as it was gracefully perceived by the audience, flowing well alongside features of Georges own work.

There are various parts throughout the film where Scorsese manipulates the story of Méliès life in order to work best with his film, although he hasn’t done this in a spiteful way, I appreciate how he has done this, even though Hugo and his story seem only a mere add on to distract from the fact that this film is pretty much a documentary that is dedicated to George Méliès. I feel that Scorsese could of achieved a film that was just as successful, that purely focuses on George, as I assume many people, similarly to me, weren’t expecting the unique storytelling method that was achieved, despite it not being a bad film, but truly a fantasy you can experience as a viewer, it’s not an approach you would expect. Towards the very end of the film, we see a fragile man who has hidden from his past and credited films for years, turned to a man who is being greeted on stage in a theatre to showcase his work with the people of Paris. I felt that this was a nice addition to the film, as Scorsese gave the story an uplifting ending in favour of George.

Since starting at the course, Hugo has been one of the best films that we have watched, in terms of  the plot, cast and visual effects. One of the shots that I found the most impressive was when the train derailed and swept mass destruction through the whole of the train station, which although not completely identical, it reminded me of a short film we watched by the Lumière Brothers called ‘Arrival of a train’ from 1895, which shows a train coming towards the camera – projector at speed, which is what Scorsese shows later on in the film. It seems although this was his intention, tying in yet more contextual research to his film. When filming/creating this particular shot, Martin wanted to recreate it the same way that the Lumière brothers did, using the same lensing, camera angle as well as within the same station – making the shots match well. Obviously this was done on a green screen, where the crew made use of all sorts of props and extras in order to bring the whole shot together, which I really think worked so well put together. There is also the addition where Scorsese shows us continuously throughout the film the city scape of Paris, where some of the buildings visible have actually been filmed previously by George Méliès himself once he had accidentally found out how to achieve jump cuts. The team working on the film carefully recreated each of the buildings easily in order to keep the sentimentality of the location; I think that this worked well alongside all of the other massive visual effects shots that Scorsese’s team achieved, even though the buildings may not seem too impressive to others, sometimes the smaller effects make the bigger difference – I feel that each of the shots that I have mentioned all flow well together throughout the duration of the film.

To conclude, overall I am impressed with Scorsese’s handling and care with the storyline and visual effects, he has managed to achieve some really big shots that have worked out extremely well alongside the shots. I like the way in which he has dedicated so much of his own time and work to George Méliès life and talent, as its nice to see other people in industry admire and celebrate each others work

Hugo: a study of modern inventive visual effects


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