Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The 2011 holiday season will have a Martin Scorsese film released called Hugo Cabret. The main character Hugo isn't a gangster or gritty violent villain. In fact no drugs, sex, violence, or intense language. And it doesn't take place in New York city.

The film is based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This book falls into the category of books that typically lacks some a young adult novel. Although, as a young adult novel, it has won a unique prize. The Caldecott Medal, which is an award given by the ALSC (The Association for Library Services to Children) honoring art in children's books.

This book is rather short (with 24 short young adult sized chapters), but on the shelf, this book has a massive presence at 533 pages. That is because author Brian Selznick also serves as illustrator with captivating pencil art throughout the book, often taking the place of written narrative and telling the story instead of words themselves.

There are certainly plenty of things to discuss, particularly as it relates to film and this being made into a movie by Scorcese, but focusing on the book itself, let me provide a brief outline.

The story takes place in Paris, France in 1931 and deals with a young boy who lives secretly in a train station by himself, after some unfortunate events. Here, he cares for the clocks in the train station and because of his fascination with machines, and a unique machine he has acquired he sometimes steals toy parts from a cranky toy store owner.

This sets the stage for a series of events, that while at time fit together just a little bit too perfectly creates for an interesting story.

Where this film becomes particularly interesting (a part from a few expected and unexpected turn of events) is that as you get into this story the historical nature of this book begins playing out.

The film actually has a great deal to do with early cinema, particularly the French inventor/magician/film maker Georges Méliès who many would credit as being the first film fantasist or the man who made the first science fiction film.

The film that Méliès is most associated with is a short film called "A Trip to the Moon (French title "Le Voyage Dans la Lune"), about just that, a group of men who travel to the moon being shot in a giant cannon...with a rocket the lands in the eye of the moon.

It is clear that as you get into the book, that Brian Selznick's intention in writing his story is to introduce readers to Méliès and play with many of the themes of Méliès life (invention, magic, and the movies).

As one of this years books that is being taken from fiction to film, I find this to not only be an interesting choice for Martin Scorches (3D and all) but I think is one that will make a great transition and really could be one a real gem.

There was obviously something that captured Scorsese's interest early on, as this book only was released in 2007, but Scorsese has really assembled an A-list cast from the young stars (Asa Butterfield and Chloë Moretz) to the seasoned veterans with important roles in the story (Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, Jude Law, Richard Griffiths, Emily Mortimer, Helen McCrory, Frances de la Tour, Michael Stuhlbarg and Ray Winstone). Not to mention a screenplay adaptation by double Oscar nominee John Logan (Gladiator and Aviator).

But this story in many ways has to be a family flick, I can't picture it any other way after reading it, nor would I want it "adulted up" in any way. I think the story works, and I can easily see it filling and fitting into a feature length context. I could take it or leave it when it comes to 3D, but since it's about invention and the technology of cinema, I think I'm even okay with that decision as well.

Check out this book when you get a chance. I'm not done talking about it. And give it a little bit and I have a feeling you'll start hearing more about this book and the film.


Lorna said...

I LOVED that book! I loved the writing, the illustrations, the heft of it, the somewhat scratchy paper cover...everything. But will it make a movie?

And btw, I think that young adult fiction is some of the best writing around these days. Think of The Golden Compass, Tales of the Otori, or anything by Lois Lowry.

latest inventions said...

The film actually has a great deal to do with early cinema, particularly the French inventor Georges Méliès.