{12/07/2012}   Why The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a perfect story

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick was made into the film “Hugo”.  The story of Hugo Cabret is delightfully and beautifully told, both as the book and the Scorsese film, inspired by a collector of automata, Georges Méliès.  Its perfection to me lies in the imaginative creativity required to create a world and characters around a real person’s collection of mechanical wind-up figures.

I have always loved children’s stories because I associate them with adventure, escapism, wild imagination and a  proper progression from a start to a finish.  The delightful thing about Hugo (the film is an amazing adaptation of the book, though the book is illustrated so “gave” Scorsese his set) is that it’s set in a real world with a magical element.  Hugo Cabret, an orphan constantly escaping the “baddie” Station Inspector, lives in 1931 Paris within the walls of a huge station, his unofficial job to keep the station clocks running and on time.  Hugo was taught by his recently deceased father how to repair clocks and other mechanical things.  He and his father share a project to restore to working order an automaton, one more complicated than most, but who we know will write something.

Having stolen a few too many cogs and sprockets from an elderly station toy shop owner, the owner sets out to catch Hugo.  He takes from Hugo what is clearly his most treasured pocket-possession, a notebook of drawings for the assembly of the automaton, as drawn by Hugo’s father.  To get the book back, the toy shop owner has Hugo work in the shop repairing broken toys.  Through this work, Hugo meets Isabelle, the adventure-starved goddaughter of “the old man”.  She introduces him to a friend in a bookshop, somewhere a poor orphan would not normally be allowed to roam freely.  In turn, Hugo introduces Isabelle to the cinema.

This is a description of just the early stages of the story, for to say more would give so much away, things that are a joy to discover for yourself.  There is magic, a bit of crying potential, some wonderful snippets of cinematic history, development of characters and relationships within the station staff … but perhaps the most amazing thing you take away from having read the book or seen the film is the magic of cinema in its early days, and indeed up to now.  The automaton is also part of the cinematic story and the discovery of the automaton’s secrets is a heart-warming joy to see being revealed.

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is a story that can only make you feel good.  There is mystery, magic, danger, intrigue, discovery, romance, comedy, niche history, awe, ahhhhhh-factor and an ending that wraps it all up into a great big fuzz of loveliness in a totally uncheesey way.  Read it, watch it; whichever you do, you will reach the end and feel inspired and wanting to watch old films, like really old films, and you will think of, for example, your grandparents in a slightly different way for this is also a beautiful story of past events and people that need to be and should be remembered and relived.


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