A 3D Movie for Kids in not exactly Martin Scorsese’s style, but in a children’s novel homage to a cinematic genus the director can’t resist. The novel is Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which won the Caldecott Medal in 2008.
The book borders on graphic novel or even what we can call cine’novel, as it unravels like a movie. It doesn’t take a Martin Scorsese to see that The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a silent movie that just needs animation. Though, Scorsese has the resources to bring Selznick’s story into live action and is also a cinema historian who understands the relevance of the book’s inspiration: Georges Méliés.
George Méliés was an important filmmaker at the turn of the 20th Century; a grandfather of Special Effects and considered the first Cinemagician. Working as a Parisian Magician Méliés was inspired by the Lumiere Brothers to take his talents off-stage and on-screen. Had many who would soon be filmmakers not seen Méliés’s cinemagic illusions, films would have largely been theater filmed.
Méliés’s 1902 film “Le Voyage dans la lune” (“A Trip to the Moon”) provided one of cinema’s most iconic images: A big, beautiful cheese-ball moon with a rocket-ship lodged in the man-in-the-moon’s eye. It was breathtaking for its time and often considered the first science-fiction movie. It implored many of the innovative illusions Méliés pioneered, which today are just standard cinema techniques.
Méliés was innovative, but not entrepreneurial and sadly went bankrupt while cinema paved economic pathways. He reclusively became a toymaker in Montparnasse Station in Paris, which is where the fictional “Hugo Cabret” comes in. The orphaned Hugo and his friend Isabelle wander secret corridors of the train station, but then discover Méliés. The toymaker has a bountiful collection of automata toys, which the real Méliés did in fact produce. The reclusive toymaker warms up to Hugo and helps the search for his father.
In a Guardian interview Scorsese explains the relationship between Méliés, Hugo, his father and the toys: “And in my film, the cinema itself is the connection – the automation, the machine itself becomes the emotional connection…it all comes together, how people express themselves using technology emotionally and psychologically.”
While first experiencing Selznick’s book one could easily imagine the cinematic worlds of perhaps Michel Gondry or Terry Gilliam. Though, there is a deep historical connection to cinema that is inherent to “Hugo Cabret” and humanistic warmth that oddly enough is captured in many of Scorsese’s films.
The film adaptation of “Hugo Cabret” was scripted by John Logan who wrote “The Aviator” for Scorsese, additional to crafting films like “Gladiator,” “The Last Samurai,” and Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd.” It stars Asa Butterfield (“The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”) as Hugo, Chloe Moretz (“Kick-Ass”) as Isabelle, Sir Ben Kingsley as Méliés, Sacha Baron Cohen as the Station Inspector, Jude Law as Hugo’s Father and a wonderful ensemble cast with Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Helen McCrory and Ray Winstone.
Scorsese’s website anticipates release of the film in December 2011.