Bibliophile Birthday: Georges Melies, the ‘Inspiration of Hugo Cabret’

Georges Melies

Georges Melies

Born on this day in 1861 , “Cinemagician”, Georges Melies was re-introduced to a whole new generation of film fans (and bibliophiles) through Brian Selnick’s monumental 2007 book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”. Thank God.

In the very nascence of film-making, Melies was an illusionist-turned-filmmaker who recognized the contributions that manipulating audience perceptions could have on moving pictures.  He is credited with being one of the first film-makers to use stop-motion tricks, dissolves, time-lapse photography and hand-painted color in movie making. He moved stage magic into the realm of movies…and the craft has never looked back since.

bday 12-8 georges melies hugo cabret selznick artIn 2007, author-illustrator Brian Selznick built a beautiful story filled with Caldecott-winning illustrations that re-introduced the man who took film-making from its toddlerhood into the realms of real movie magic. The name and contributions of Georges Melies are resurrected (both in the book AND in the real world) in an instance where art imitates life…and vice versa (thank you Oscar Wilde!).

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” almost qualifies as a wordless book, with page after page of story-telling illustrations punctuated by intermittent pages of text.  The dark frames surrounding each page of illustration create a lovely silver-gray effect as the closed book is viewed edge-on.  It’s a thick book and on the shelf it looks like one of the most challenging tomes in the Kids/YA section. But in truth, it’s an ideal choice for reluctant/challenged readers as well as adult fans of the finest illustration arts.

When we see the wonders of special effects in film today – sitting through one on-screen spectacle after another – it’s easy to become inured to the magic behind the movie-making. We don’t really think about the journey from the earliest days of cinema to the full-on multimedia experiences we enjoy today.

Today is a good day to remember Georges Melies and his vision with a wonderful re-read of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”.

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