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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

HUGO Cabret - One of the best modern stories for children

Brian Selznick's sumptuously beautiful graphic novel for children, The Invention of Hugo Cabret  (2007) ticks all the boxes for a truly great story of all time. It's protagonist, the mild, earnest, mechanically-minded Hugo is an orphan who lives between the walls of a Paris train station, circa early 1900's.

After his drunkard uncle disappears, Hugo continues to wind all the station clocks, keeping them in perfect working order, so as to remain living in a forgotten corner room, high up among the giant cogs and wheels.

But the station master has other ideas. He means to catch Hugo and send him to the orphanage - a tidy solution to his problem of who should look after this child.
Hugo has one love - clockwork. He is not only fascinated, obsessed, but has the skill to repair anything. After all, he maintains all the station's clocks. But his one passion is to repair the automaton sitting in his room; a forgotten relic saved from the museum fire which killed his beloved father. The automaton is somehow a connection to that lost father, to a happier past. Hugo is certain that if he could just get the mechanical man working, there would be a message from his father. But Hugo doesn't have the pieces he needs to fix the automaton, so he begins stealing them from the toy store at the station, owned by the gruff and unforgiving Georges Melies.

Hugo befriends Isabelle, Papa Georges' daughter and together they not only find the lost key to bringing the automaton to life, but reignite the hope and passion of a forgotten film maker and automaton collector - Georges Melies.

With actual footage of early silent films, and photographs from the era, The Invention of Hugo Cabret transports the reader to a beautiful Victorian setting, shrouded in the romantic mystery of the age of steam.
 The story was adapted for film with exceptional skill in 2011, producing a fine moving picture of this wonder-filled adventure astonishingly true to the book's original appearance.
Insightful casting included Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies, Sasha Baron-Cohen as the station master and the talented Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret. The movie Hugo offers a glimpse into a fascinating past, based upon the real life story of Georges Melies and the real life existence of automata, some of which survive in museums today and can be seen on youtube. Franklin Institute demonstration
And this one, of infamous French Queen Marie Antoinette playing a harpsichord. marie antoinette automaton



And here, a short film (in French) about the glorious 'androids' of Jaquet-Droz of 1700's. including this 240 year old mechanical boy, (containing almost 6000 miniature parts) who writes and draws. Jaquet-Droz automaton boy Astonishing!
An informative and fascinating short documentary on how the film version built their automaton man can be found here: automaton from HUGO movie

In this age of violent cartoons, sexualisation of children everywhere and the ever diminishing innocence of childhood, this is one story that refuses to be trivialised.
 Selznick doesn't gloss over the problems of that era. It is obvious that Hugo has tremendous courage to survive in a world which sees him as an inconvenience, but in his quest to find that hidden message from his dead father he finds something unexpected - a loving home of his own.



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