Thursday, July 20, 2023

Blu-ray Review: HUGO

 by Anthony King

Arrow knocks it out of the park with a love letter to film preservation.

I first saw Martin Scorsese's Hugo (2011) when it came to DVD. I wasn't as well-versed in film history as I am today (I'm still not well-versed). I saw the movie as an odd departure into children's films from the guy who gave us Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1995). I was not impressed to say the least, and ever since have dismissed Hugo as lesser Scorsese. I would like to apologize for such foolish thinking, and I'm pleased to report, due to Arrow's spectacular release, Hugo sits just below Scorsese's top shelf masterpieces.
Paris, 1931. A young boy sits in his father's workshop. In front of him is an automaton. Just one missing piece will complete it. We jump ahead and the young boy, named Hugo (Asa Butterfield), is working in the walls of a bustling train station, keeping up the maintenance of the ever-important clocks. Hugo is now an orphan, surviving on his own, living in the train station, constantly dodging the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) lest Hugo be dragged off to the orphanage. Hugo spends much of his time observing the goings on of the train station. From the woman who sells flowers (Emily Mortimer) and the station inspector's secret pining for her, to the awkward dance around romance between an aging man (Richard Griffiths) and woman (Frances de la Tour). Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee) runs the small book store, and Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley) runs the toy stand with his god daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). Hugo is caught by Papa Georges attempting to steal a toy, and is forced to work off his punishment, in order to get his diary back. Within the diary are the schematics for the automaton whose missing piece Hugo is still searching. Hugo and Isabelle become friends and soon discover Papa Georges is actually the filmmaker Georges Méliès who has long since hung up his filmmaker hat and faded into obscurity. As the kids delve deeper into the mystery of why Papa Georges now only runs the toy stand, they meet Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg) who wrote a book about Méliès. Tabard has in his possession a Méliès film, which was thought to have been destroyed, along with the rest of his work. Showing the film reignites Papa Georges' love of cinema and leads to the discovery of dozens more of his films.

Based on the unconventional children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, the film is at once a love story, a story of self-discovery, and a love letter to cinema. Martin Scorsese has long been an outspoken advocate for film preservation, and I can think of no other film that stands as strong as Hugo does as a reason for the act of discovering, rediscovering, and the preservation of film. While Hugo has something for the entire family, as a lover of film and as someone who never wants to stop discovering films, Hugo spoke more loudly and directly to my heart than I ever thought it would. From Butterfield and Moretz to Kingsley and Helen McCrory who plays Mama Jeanne, the performances make this movie impossibly romantic in every sense of the word. From Selznick's book, Scorsese and cinematographer Robert Richardson cordially pull the viewer into the world of this train station. Around every corner is another sight to behold. Spending time in this world is like sinking into a warm bath and letting yourself drift away to a dreamworld. Howard Shore's score provides the cloud on which we sail through a magical world full of bright colors.
Arrow has delivered one of the best releases of the year, presenting Hugo in 2D and 3D, with a wonderful commentary by Jon Spira. A disc solely devoted to and stacked with bonus material includes interviews, video essays, and making-of featurettes. “Inventing Hugo Cabret” (54 min.) is the first interview. Brian Selznick, author of the original book and co-screenwriter of the film, talks about his career and the long history of bringing Hugo Cabret to page and then screen. The second interview, “Capturing Dreams,” (40 min.) is a lively sit-down with cinematographer Robert Richardson. Here he shares his experience working with Scorsese, including a hysterical anecdote about their first time working together on Casino. The final interview, “The Music of Dreams,” (14 min.) is with composer Howard Shore where he details his process of bringing a film score to life.
“Ian Christie on Hugo” (23 min.) finds the film scholar and editor of Scorsese on Scorsese talking about the making of the film. “Secret Machines: Hugo and Film Preservation” (18 min.) is a fabulous and beautifully poetic video essay on the relationship of the film and the act of preservation by critic Scout Tafoya. “Creating New Worlds: The Life of George Méliès” (38 min.) is a conversation with author Julien Dupuy about Méliès and his impact on cinematic special effects. “Papa Georges Made Movies” (10 min.) is a fascinating video essay where critic Pamela Hutchinson discusses examples of early cinema. “Méliès at the Time of Hugo” (8 min.) is a wonderful video essay about the real life Georges Méliès at the time the story of Hugo would've taken place. The bonus features disc wraps up with five archival featurettes ported over from the original release: “Shoot the Moon: The making of Hugo” (20 min.); “The Cinemagician: Georges Méliès” (15 min.); “The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo,” (13 min.); “Big Effects, Small Scale” (6 min.); and “Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime” (3 min.).
Since its initial release, it seems as though people have started coming around on Hugo. The film is able to attain new, even higher heights with this spectacular release from Arrow. We need an exquisite love letter to the art of cinema and its preservation now more than ever, and Hugo just may be it.

Bonus features
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation of the film in 2D and 3D
Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tommy Pocket
Illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing by film critic Farran Smith Nehme
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tommy Pocket

High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation of the film in 2D and 3D
DTS-HD MA 7.1 and 2.0 audio options
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by filmmaker and writer Jon Spira, publisher of The Lost Autobiography of Georges Méliès
Theatrical trailer

“Inventing Hugo Cabret” – a new interview with Brian Selznick author and illustrator of the original novel on which the film is based
“Capturing Dreams” – a new interview with director of photography Robert Richardson
“The Music of Dreams” – a new interview with composer Howard Shore
Ian Christie on Hugo – a new interview with the acclaimed film historian and editor of Scorsese on Scorsese
“Secret Machines: Hugo and Film Preservation” – a new visual essay by filmmaker and critic Scout Tafoya
“Creating New Worlds” – a new featurette in which French film historian and author Julien Dupuy examines the life and the legacy of Georges Méliès and his impact on cinema and special effects
“Papa Georges Made Movies” – a new featurette in which film critic and historian Pamela Hutchinson explores the days of early cinema
“Melies at the time of Hugo” – a new a visual essay by filmmaker and writer Jon Spira
Five archival featurettes on the making of the film – “Shoot the Moon: The Making of Hugo,” “The Cinemagician: Georges Méliès,” “The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo,” “Big Effects, Small Scale,” and “Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime”

Blu-ray release date: July 18, 2023
126 minutes / 2011
1.85:1 (1080p)
DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)
Region: All region

1 comment:

  1. I never understood why people didn't like this movie more when it came out. I think it was the same as you though, it made the mistake of not being Goodfellas, which is a shame