Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick

As a student of film one of the lessons I enjoyed learning concerned the difference between the film pioneers, the Lumiere Brothers and Georges Melies.  The Lumieres were realists; and they busied themselves travelling around and filming real things - one of their classics is The Arrival of a Train in La Ciotat; the plot involves a train arriving in La Ciotat.  

Melies, however, was an illusionist; he specialises in surprising us, or making us dream.  His stories are absurd fantasies; and he takes us among other places to the moon and the sun - his explorers journey to the sun in a train.  Of course, in real terms, Melies travelled far less than the Lumieres - Melies filmed in a studio; but the lesson remains the same, the further a film takes you - think Star Trek - the less the characters actually have to travel.

Anyway, I love this book.  I also loved the film; but the book, with its many illustrations and film stills, has a particular charm of its own.  It concerns Georges Melies, though it is not a biography; it is a fantasy about a boy who saves Georges Melies by finding and re-building an automaton that Melies once invented.  As children's novels do it has simple, recognisable morals; it is also full of pleasure, awe, excitement and escape, and it is determinedly, deliciously old fashioned.  Well worth it.

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