Tag Archives: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Book to Film: My Thoughts on Martin Scorcese’s “Hugo”

Oh hey again! Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, replete with family, food, and a lack of getting trampled beneath the feet of Black Friday shoppers. I, for one, will say I had an excellent Thanksgiving weekend. I got to see Hugo.

If you’re up on your YA and children’s lit, you know Hugo is the beautiful amalgam of graphic novel and silent movie The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by writer / illustrator Brian Selznick about the titular orphan living in a Parisian train station, winding the station’s clocks while stealing gears from a toy stand so he can fix the gleaming automaton he keeps as bearer of the last message from, and legacy of, his father. This sounds like the setup or a steampunk take on Dickens, but in the book, and in the film, the story evolves into much, much more.

I won’t compare the book to the film, since the book’s been out for years and fans on either side of the divide are usually impossible to convince, but I will say that Hugo was an amazing experience for me.

First, Hugo is just plain beautiful. From the cinematography to score to art direction to 3D (the best use of the medium I’ve seen since James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar), director Martin Scorcese transforms this story from as dazzling page-turner to a gleaming clockwork treasure. And better still, in my opinion, is John Logan’s fanastic script, which gives the entire family not only an intensely moving love letter to early film history, but a story that courageously falls outside the familiar themes of friendship and good prevailing over sinister forces. Don’t mistake me—those messages are intact here—but they take a back seat to a more intricate, nuanced, and touching realization: that the world can break us, and as fellows in the human condition, it is our calling to fix each other the best way we know how.

I have a slight suspicion that Hugo could be easily forgotten amongst the glut of quality cinema coming out in November and December, like The Muppets, War Horse, The Descendants, The Adventures of Tin-Tin, and The Artist. It should not be. So if you haven’t seen Hugo yet, go yesterday, and share like you would an amazing holiday gift…with everyone.

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The Tangled Webs Lit Weaves

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you find out you have the opportunity to do something totally awesome, but just won’t allow for? It’s like getting your acceptance letter to Hogwarts only to be told, “Actually, that was late in the Owl Post, and you’re one day too old to go now. So. Yeah. Oops.”

I had one of those today! As we who love awesome YA lit know, Martin Scorcese’s Hugo comes out in theaters tomorrow, based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret by writer / illustrator extraordinaire Brian Selznick. Well, the Museum of Moving Images in NYC had an advance screening tonight with Selznick and screenwriter John Logan in attendance to do a presentation and Q&A discussion before the movie. Flavorpill had a giveaway, and yours truly unexpectedly won. Unfortunately by the time I found out, I couldn’t grab a train in the city to get there on time. Thus, not only did I miss the opportunity to get a book signed by the wonderful Mr. Selznick, but I feel doubly horrible because the unfortunate timing means I potentially cheated another eager fan out of the opportunity to experience such a wonderful event. For this, I apologize to the world at the large, and hope karma doesn’t back and smack me too too badly in the future.

But reading about the event, and the movie itself, did make me realize just how entrenched in the cinematic tradition Hugo Cabret is. See, not only is the film about early French cinema (which, for those unaware, is the ancestor of all the Hollywood classics and not-so-much-so films we have today), it’s also by an author directly associated with classic American film (Brian Selznick is the descendant of the great David Selznick). And once I knew that, it raised all sorts of interesting ideas about the stories of stories.

For example, now that I have that context for Hugo Cabret, I feel as if it enriches the literary experience, as is there’s some new innate truth to it because of the fiction’s association to the reality of an art form I greatly enjoy. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that’s possible with every book, but knowing the time, the attitude—in other words, the sensibilities—alter my understanding of the work itself. Its like the extra information is a freakish spider web that has the potential to bog down the work it affects, or, inversely, to become trapped itself, embedded in the affected work and enriching that story as a result. For example, reading news articles about the 1970s and then reading Tom Perotta’s Bad Haircut, or looking at the work of modern illusionists and then watching examples of older magic in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige.

Have you had experiences like that with your YA lit? Or lit in general? What were they? And do you think having that information is good, bad, or irrelevant?

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