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 Post subject: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:48 am 
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Why do you think the illustrations are all in black and white? Why pencil? Would color have worked?



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:15 am 
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I think he used black and white as a kind of homage to early cinema- it's hard to imagine any other choice, actually. Black and white also seems to leave a little more up to the viewer's imagination.
I'd actually have loved to see the illustrations done in black ink (maybe because that's what the automaton would have used...), but pencil may be more appropriate. Black and white film isn't really black and white, is it? More gradations of grey, which makes pencil the perfect medium.


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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:37 am 
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Interesting point aboug black/white/gray.

Buster, I agree that he wants us to view the book as a black and white silent movie. The pages of text are like the screens that held the words that were needed for explanation and they propel us on to the next page and action sequence. The drawings, as someone suggested yesterday, are like different camera angles dramatizing the action the way an old silent film would. It is an homage to the old silent movies which of course are the subject of the book. In that sense, color would not have worked.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:18 am 
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I concur with the both of you. The black and white illustrations are in honor of early cinema and silent movies. The pictures would lose something in translation if they were in color. Perhaps, because the author wants us to feel as Hugo’s father did, or George Melies, when they first witnessed the glorious moving images on the screen.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:56 am 
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Hi everybody. I think the look of the book was very intentional on Selznick's part; an effort to pull the reader into Paris during the late 20's/early 30's as reflected through silent films. For instance, the drawings for me simulate the kind of black, white and grey grainy tones of silent movies. This gives the book an antique feel sort of like looking at a daguerreotype photograph from the turn of the century; the use of charcoal/pencil drawings is essential to producing this effect. For me this works so well for Hugo's story, and that reason I really don't think that color illustrations would have been as effective.

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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:42 pm 
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Here are some interesting bits relating to this question from an interview Mr. Selznick gave to kidsreads.com

Question: THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET combines words and pictures in a truly original way. The storytelling happens visually, unfolding like a series of film stills, and also in segments that read like a novel. When you started working on the book, which came first, writing or drawing? How did you decide which scenes to draw, and which to describe with words?

Brian Selznick: I started writing the book as a traditional novel, thinking it would have perhaps one drawing per chapter. But I love picture books and the idea of visual narratives, and I've wondered what would happen if you illustrated a novel like a picture book. I've experimented with this idea a little bit in some novels by other authors I've illustrated, like THE MEANEST DOLL IN THE WORLD by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, as well as OUR HOUSE by Pam Conrad. I created visual openings for these books, so the reader's first connection to the story is through the pictures.

I've always loved the wild rumpus in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak, because the words disappear, the pictures take up the whole page, and we move forward in the story by turning the pages. The more I thought about this idea, the more I thought how interesting it would be to have part of THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET told with pictures, because the story involves the early history of cinema. The pictures would be like a series of silent movies running throughout the book, helping to tell the story. When I got this idea, I had to go back and take OUT all the text that I was going to replace with pictures. I wrote long lists of what I wanted each picture to be in each visual sequence and then made small dummy books of those visual sequences to make sure that the story was getting across in the pictures.


Q: The story is partly inspired by Georges Méliès, an early French filmmaker whom some people credit with making the first ever science fiction films. When did you first see one of his films? What aspects of Georges Méliès' work and life story seemed to you like good starting points for a work of fiction for children?

BS: I don't remember when I first saw A Trip to the Moon, Georges Méliès' most famous movie, but I do remember loving it. It's a silent movie made in 1902 and it's funny and beautiful and strange. I thought it would be great to one day write a story about the man who made this movie, but that idea sat in the back of my head for over ten years. I eventually learned about a book called EDISON'S EVE: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood, about the history of automata, which are wind-up mechanical figures that often seem to be alive. Gaby wrote a chapter about Méliès, who owned a collection of automata that he donated to a museum when he could no longer afford to keep them. The museum didn't take care of them and they were destroyed and thrown away. I imagined a boy finding one of those automata, and that's how the story began.

Méliès began his career as a magician, and he always filmed his movies as if they were stage productions an audience would sit and watch. He was a great artist who lost everything and was rediscovered at the end of his life and celebrated once again. His use of magic, his belief in the power of imagination, and the joy he experienced as he created his art seemed to me the kinds of things that kids would understand.


Q: You reference a lot of films in the book --- not just films by Georges Méliès, but ones by other directors, too. Can you tell us more about the movies you watched as you were working on this book? Did any of them help inspire your storytelling, or the look of your drawings?

BS: One of the most wonderful parts of working on this book was that it gave me an opportunity to watch many early French films that I had never seen before. I started by watching as many movies by Georges Méliès as I could find. Then I watched movies that were made in or about 1931, when my story takes place. This was around the same time that synchronized sound was introduced to the movies (before that all movies were silent). Some directors, like René Clair, did very experimental things with sound which I found really interesting. Clair made a wonderful movie called Under the Roofs of Paris, and I reference that movie in the very first line of THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET: "The story I am about to tell you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris."

I also fell in love with the work of Jean Vigo, who made a movie about a rebellion in a boy's boarding school called Zero for Conduct. And I watched many, many films by François Truffaut, who came a little later but who made some movies that really influenced my writing and drawing, especially The 400 Blows, which is about a twelve-year-old boy who runs away and tries to live on his own.

The drawings in THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET are filled with visual references to all these movies, and many of the characters' names come from the films as well. For example, check out the name of the café that Hugo walks past as he heads to the French Film Academy.


Source: kidsreads.com



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:26 pm 
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Brian Selznick wrote:
The pictures would be like a series of silent movies running throughout the book, helping to tell the story. When I got this idea, I had to go back and take OUT all the text that I was going to replace with pictures. I wrote long lists of what I wanted each picture to be in each visual sequence and then made small dummy books of those visual sequences to make sure that the story was getting across in the pictures.

Wow! :-O I never got the correlation between a “silent” movie and an illustration being silent. Seems so obvious now.


Buster wrote:
I'd actually have loved to see the illustrations done in black ink (maybe because that's what the automaton would have used...), but pencil may be more appropriate. Black and white film isn't really black and white, is it? More gradations of grey, which makes pencil the perfect medium.

I also had not thought of that. But, yes, pencil looks more like film than ink--not only does it show gradations of grey but also has a more 2D look. I'm very impressed at the thought he put into this book.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:31 pm 
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Even though the drawings have a lot of detail in them, they have a simplicity that would appeal to children, I think. And the pencil drawings (black and white......ok, and gray) fit the look of the book. I cannot imagine garish color mixed in with those black page edges and the layout of the black text. :yuck:


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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:39 pm 
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I agree with what has be said before me. The black/white/grey pencil drawings seem to give the reader a mind set of the silent film era. Bright colorful drawings would have been too harsh for the setting. The drawings are so interesting and the more you look at them - the more you see..


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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:14 pm 
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After reading Mr. Selznicks interview, I am not sure this is true, but when I read the book I had the feeling aside from fitting in with the story, that mention was made of so many great film makers of the silent era more to pull in the older generation than the youngsters who would not recognize the names.

Like Liz, I never made the connection between black and white illustrations and silent films but it does make sense.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:25 pm 
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I have to agree, gemini. Maybe that is for parents reading the book to their kids (like the Disney films do for parents). I so see me reading this book to my kids, if it had only been written about 15 years earlier.

But let's not get into the question of parents and children just yet. We'll discuss that later.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:43 pm 
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Of course, late to the discussion :-O but I concur absolutely, homage to silent films.

In addition, for me at least, I look at the drawings and I do think about cities years ago, when there was so much gray and black all over -- in the air, on buildings, window ledges, lightly coating almost everything. All due to the heavy use of coal. This would be especially true at a train station, those large plumes of black sooty clouds announcing arriving and departing trains. So perhaps another way to see it -- as a real look back to another time when gray and black were truly prominant colors in the life of any major city.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:46 pm 

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Just a thought about Mr. Selznick's use of pencial drawings - I wonder if it is a nod to the drawings Papa George, Hugo's father and Hugo himself drew!? I love his description of Hugo rubbing his father's notebook with his thumb! Notebooks (paper in general) and pencils are two of my obsessions - needless to say then I really love the pencial drawings - there's just something about graphite?!

I recently found myself spending the better part of half an hour trying to decide what brand and kind of pencils (soft, hard, thin, wide)( I think that's the HB number) as well as what kind of paper to get my brother for his birthday?! I think the sales clerk (a fine arts student) thought I was a little obsessive but I had such a lovely time and I hope my brother will enjoy using them :cool:



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:10 pm 
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Lizbet, I think that is a wonderful present!

firefly, the black/white/gray does add to the setting, most definitely!



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Question #3 ~ Black and White
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:00 pm 
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I have another theory why the pictures are in black and white.
At the end of chapter 12, Hugo says the following:
"The complicated machinery inside my automaton can produce one hundred and fifty-eight different pictures, and it can write, letter by letter an entire book, twenty-six thousand one hundred and fifty-nine words.
These words".

Now I started to count all the drawings and pictures in the book.
There are 142 drawings by pencil, 7 drawings in ink and 9 photographs.
Making a total of 158 :perplexed:
I presume that the automaton could also make photocopies of the photographs :-O but could not draw or print in colour.



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