Hugo is a Scorsese’s personal homage to early cinema, most notable of Georges Melies, through a narrative regarding Melies own work and the tragedy and blessing that is of time.
Hugo combines many techniques conventionally found in older films and combines it with his own take as well as modern technology. The combination of techniques and the narrative played onscreen makes a contrast and comparison of the progression and evolution of cinema throughout time.
Many themes and motifs are notable strewn throughout the film in the form of the many clockwork machines, a motif of the role each piece or person plays as a greater whole. In the beginning, Hugo himself is inside of the clock, possible a metaphor that he is already part of the system. After all, a machine is useless without a caretaker. Hugo plays the role of the caretaker in multiple forms from fixing misc. machines to even fixing Melies himself. And thus overcoming his own dreary loneliness.
The mise-en-scene really captures the cultural and time period the film takes place, from the French couture and mannerisms to references of films and happenings relevant to the time.
While the animation was very vivid and elaborate, I believe it played a larger role in Scorsese’s personal homage to older film as it applies a very modern technique and technology that contrasts to a story mainly regarding older film.
My only complaint is that perhaps there was too much going on, from a mini-story about the elderly couple and the Officer and Flower Shop Lady that felt forced and rushed.
But that aside, Hugo is still a wonderfully pieced together film that pays homage to Georges Melies.