Rachel and I were fortunate to attend a preview showing of Hugo, the movie based on Brian Selznick’s Caldecott-winning illustrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. We loved the movie so much that we decided to write this piece together.
Selznick’s Hugo is a lush and wonderfully conceived novel about an orphaned boy who lives in the walls of a bustling Paris station. When Hugo makes friends with the bitter old man who runs the toy shop and his book-loving goddaughter, Isabelle, he uncovers a secret mystery that connects his dead father’s automaton to something intricately wonderful.
Hugo is acclaimed film director Martin Scorsese’s first foray into family filmmaking, and judging from the finished project, he took the task very seriously. It is a movie that is clearly made by someone who loves the history of film and the filmmaking process. Thanks in part to 3D technology and Scorcese’s skilled eye, the film’s post-WWI Paris setting comes alive. The mechanical inner workings of the train station clock, where young Hugo spends most of his time, whirs to life in stunning 3D, and the vastness of the train station can be felt in this slow-building mystery.
Asa Butterfield as young Hugo gives a great performance- it is hard to look away from his large, clear, blue eyes. Acting great Ben Kingsley as the bitter, old toy shop keepers with a mysterious past is wonderfully touching in his role. For comic relief, comedian Sasha Baron Cohen plays the dastardly train station security guard who is always on the lookout for Hugo and his fellow orphans, attempting to round them up and send them off to the Parisian orphanages.
After reading Hugo and seeing the movie, you’ll want to continue the “Selznick experience” with his latest novel, Wonderstruck. Set fifty years apart, Selznick tells two stories, one in words and the other in pictures. While Ben longs for the father he never knew, Rose dreams of a mysterious actress. As the two separately set out alone to find the answers they’re looking for, they discover that their lives intersect more than they’ve ever dreamed possible.
Here are some images from the novel given to us with the kind permission of the author and illustrator, Brian Selznick: