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Hugo Cabret, Georges Méliès, and Martin Scorsese

Hugo Cabret, Georges Méliès, and Martin Scorsese

“A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message all come together…in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” I read this wonderful book by author, illustrator Brian Selznick. It amazed me. It is about an orphan, clock keeper, and thief. “Twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. “

Selznick says, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” The nearly three hundred pages of pictures takes up an entire double page spread, and the story moves forward because you turn the pages to see the next moment unfold in front of you.

What I loved so much about this story is that it was not only about Hugo Cabret but Georges Méliès.

The book’s primary inspiration is the true story of turn-of-the-century pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata.  Selznick decided to add automatons to the storyline after reading Edison’s Eve by Gaby Wood, which tells the story of Edison’s attempt to create a talking wind up doll. Méliès actually had a set of automata, which were either sold or lost. At the end of his life Méliès was broke, even as his films were screening widely in the United States. He did work in a toy booth in a Paris railway station, hence the setting. Selznick drew Méliès’s real door in the book. It is reported that Méliès did sell some of his films to a company where they were ultimately used to make heels for shoes.

Because of his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality through cinematography, Méliès is sometimes referred to as the First “Cinemagician,” and the father of special effects.

His most famous film is A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la Lune) made in 1902, which includes the celebrated scene in which a spaceship hits the eye of the man in the moon. Also famous is The Impossible Voyage (Le voyage à travers l’impossible) from 1904. Both of these films are about strange voyages, somewhat in the style of Jules Verne. These are considered to be some of the most important early science fiction films, although their approach is closer to fantasy. In addition, horror cinema can be traced back to Georges Méliès’s Le Manoir du diable (1896). A print of the film was acquired by Thomas Edison, who then duplicated and distributed it in the United States, where it achieved financial success; however, Edison did not pay any revenues to Méliès.

In 1913 Georges Méliès film company was forced into bancrupcy by the large French and American studios, and his company was bought out of receivership by Pathe Freres. Méliès did not grasp the value of his films, and with some 500 films recorded on cellulose, the French Army seized most of this stock to be melted down into boot heels during World War I. Many of the other films were sold to be recycled into new film. As a result many of his films do not exist today.

After being driven out of business, Méliès became a toy salesman at the Montparnasse station, with the assistance of funds collected by other filmmakers. In 1932 the Cinema Society gave Méliès a home in Château d’Orly. Georges Méliès was also awarded the Legion d’honneur  which was presented to him by Louis Lumière.

Méliès died in Paris and was buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

His 1899 short film Cleopatra was believed to be a lost film until a copy was discovered in 2005 in Paris.

This Thanksgiving weekend Martin Scorsese adaptation of this remarkable novel hits theaters in 3D.

I will be the first in line.  Hugo, Méliès, Scorsese what could be better?

WC

3 Comments

  1. Lilith poghosyan says:

    Thank you for such a good film . We hope that all will love it.

  2. Cerulia says:

    An excellent film. We don’t often find “family” films that my husband will actually join in to watch. He was just as captivated as our daughter and equally delighted in the historical significance. Scorsese nailed this one.

  3. Dimitria Letsos says:

    I took my two nephews to see the movie, now planning to buy the book for them! To see a three year old and a seven year old sit, not move a muscle and be immersed in this amazingly stunning movie was such an eventful two and some hours! I showed them the book online and they both want me to purchase it! It is clearly refreshing to see books and movies made to clearly touch the depth of creativity, and spirit of children!! Thank you!!

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