Hugo Cabret’s father found a discarded automaton in the museum where he was employed and was determined to repair it and make it work again. The automaton was the figure of a man holding a pen poised to write something. What could it be? Would it explain what kind of inventor made it?

When Hugo is orphaned, he continues to repair the automaton while working to maintain the clocks that his uncle abandoned when he disappeared. In a dream like train station in the middle of Paris, Hugo lives within a secret compartment where he can move furtively from one clock to another. The shots of the clocks and the gears, the repetition of the images of keys and locks, lead to a rapturous feeling toward simple mechanics. I will not say technology. That would be putting too extreme an edge on what we are looking at which is the works of things. The metaphor is work. How do things work. What work do we do to give our lives meaning. How do we fix what lies broken? Can a broken man be mended?

Scorsese’s movie is a pleasure to watch, and at the end, there is an afterglow of images that stay in the mind’s eye.


About Patricia Markert

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