The clockwork orphan? Why is this kid meddling with the mechanics of the antique clock at the Parisian rail-station Gare Montparnasse? Hugo Cabret is alone in the world, hiding in the station walls, fixing and winding all the station’s clocks.

This is a lovely film. Set in the 1930’s, it unfolds against the busy commercial life and interesting atmosphere of the train station. Originally written as a children’s book, it has the typical orphan hero… determined to remain independent, living by his wits and  secretly solving a great mystery. Every orphan hero needs a confidant, a buddy, a kindred spirit, so Hugo finds a friend to help. Apart from the father he dearly misses, adults are unnecessary to his life; to a certain extent they are the enemy; certainly they are not helpful! Imagination, determination, intelligence, courage, and coincidence all contribute to solving a mystery of overwhelming significance.

The clock interior and the station provide a fascinating setting, and the solution of a complex mechanical puzzle drives the plot. The movie also highlights the connection between mechanical tricks, early magic shows, and the very first motion pictures. So we have a heartwarming story about children co-operating to complete their quest, combined with another heartwarming story about the greatest pioneer of film making. Fascinating!

The movie got rave reviews and won several academy awards. You can find this all on Wikipedia. TIME ran a very detailed review. The review in The Guardian is linked here. These are a few words from The Globe and Mail… the whole article is worth reading.

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to be amazed! Martin Scorsese’s new film, Hugo, the 69-year-old director’s first feature for children, is a kind of wonder machine that uses the latest movie technology to pay tribute to the early days of the movies, with their 19th-century roots in circuses and magic-show spectacles.

As well as an engaging fable about a homeless orphan living in a train station, Scorsese’s film is a richly illustrated lesson in cinema history and the best argument for 3-D since James Cameron’s Avatar.

My grand-daughter loaned me her DVD of Hugo and said I would like it.  She was right! I am really sorry that I missed the first theatrical run in 3D! The film is visually stunning, even on my inadequate TV screen.   I will watch it again at home, and hope it will be back on the big screen sometime during the summer,

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