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Hugo - Film Review

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by Carrie Tong (subscribe)
Carrie Tong studied the Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) at the University of Sydney, and is currently seeking employment.
Published February 13th 2012

Hugo is an excellent film. And I'm not just saying that because I love every film. I know a mediocre film when I see one. Hugo is a piece of historical fiction, made by a director who is either eager to reunite audiences with the beginnings of film, or is lost in the moviemaking business and is looking to return to what inspired him to make films in the first place. Hugo is a brilliant film about clockwork, cogs and children; it is also an enlightening film that borders on being a biopic about Georges Melies.

There is one thing that stands out about this film. The film's name is Hugo, yes, and there is a character, a boy, of that name in the film. However, even though he is a focal character in the film, he is not the only focal character in the film. I'm probably more inclined to say that Georges Melies and his life's work, as it has been fictionalised in the film, is the focus of Hugo. Although Hugo starts off as a film about a boy looking to reconnect with his dead father, through the mysterious robotic automaton, it ends up being a film that is largely dedicated to the very real Georges Melies.

In case you don't know who Georges Melies was, he was a French filmmaker who made extraordinarily fantastical films. In Hugo, he is suggested to be one of the first filmmakers who realised that films could represent what we see in our dreams. Hugo shows in great detail how the scope of Georges Melies's work ranged from depicting life under the sea to life amongst the stars. In Hugo, the real-life historical figure of Georges Melies is reborn as a tormented, once-successful dreamer and artist whose life is resuscitated because of the orphan Hugo. In the film, the lives of Hugo and Georges Melies become intertwined because of the robotic automaton, the last relic that Hugo has of his relationship with his dead father.

So just from this review, it is probably obvious that Hugo is a complex film. One side of Hugo is fictitious: the side that deals with the fictitious Hugo, his fictitious father, and the fictitious automaton. Then there's the other side of Hugo, which is not so fictitious: the side that deals with the moviemaker Georges Melies, and his rise to and fall from fame. The film is made even more complex from the way that the focal character is sometimes Hugo and sometimes Georges Melies, even though Hugo is usually the character who is on-screen.

However, even though Hugo doesn't quite work like a normal film, it is fantastic. Maybe the fact that it doesn't quite work like a normal film is why it is so refreshing. Hugo mixes fact and fiction in a way that is easy to digest. Hugo might just succeed in introducing new audiences to the old silent films, and especially those of the visionary Georges Melies.

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Why? A fantastical film about fantastical films
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