Brian Selznick’s The Invention Of Hugo Cabret was meant to evolve from print to motion picture. The Invention Of Hugo Cabret is bursting with adventure, history, and fantasy. Selznick crafted a story that I enjoyed reading to my daughter over the past summer. I took my daughter to see Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Selznick’s book and despite trimming some of the muscle; screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, and the upcoming Skyfall) did a superb job of streamlining the book for the screen. Although I have always admired Scorsese, I initially thought that he was an odd choice for directing Hugo. Of course his dynamic range can be applied to any genre of film, but I wrongfully suspected that his unconventionally razor sharp editing (courtesy of editor Thelma Schoomaker) and unpredictable camera angles would get in the way of this endearing story. But this seasoned veteran applied the same simple yet meticulous touches to this film as he did in 1993 with The Age Of Innocence.
Hugo Cabret is highly intelligent and blessed with incredible handiness. He is orphaned after his father (played briefly by Jude Law) is killed in a fire. Hugo has to resort to stealing in order to survive, and this causes him to be pursued by the station inspector played by Sacha Boren Cohen. The station inspector was once an orphan, but firmly believes that orphanages provide appropriate rehabilitation for troubled youth. Sacha Boren Cohen gives a performance that is comedic/stern and should merit consideration for a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. Equally as good is Ben Kingsley, whom I still scratch my head about due to no Oscar nomination for his supporting in Schindler’s List. Kingsley portrays the great French Filmmaker Georges Melies`, whom made hundreds on silent films in the late 19th and early 20th century. Once WWI ravaged Europe, Melies` joined the war effort and about 80% of his films were lost or melted down to make ladies’ shoe heels of all things. Melies` initially sees Hugo as a common thief, but the two have an uncommon yet powerful connection due to a certain invention.
The heart of the movie is that life can have a happy ending just like the movies. Melies`’ was depressed and isolated because he believed that no one would ever be interested in seeing his films ever again. Hugo is a testament to the importance of film preservation. Scorsese is equally as knowledgeable as a film historian as he is a director. He is fierce supporter of the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry division and the Blu Ray format. Scorsese believes that preservation forever captures our nation’s history and intimate memories. Blu Ray presents the film in the quality of the original first distribution print without altering any of the cinematographer and sound crew’s efforts. Scorsese warmly integrated actual footage of Melies`’ into Hugo and matched fictional footage flawlessly with the help of ace cinematographer Robert Richardson. I saw the film in 2D, but the early tracking shots (that reminds film buffs of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times) will most likely be stunning for those that like the 3D format.
Unfortunately Hugo’s international and domestic gross combined is well below its near $150million dollar budget. But Martin Scorsese, John Logan and producer Graham King should be incredibly proud of their film. They have crafted a surefire Oscar contender and this film will generate great revenue in Blu Ray and DvD sales. Perhaps time will be kind to this grand film, and it may one day be considered for permanent preservation.
Below is a short clip of Melies' most famous film: A Trip To The Moon.