Hugo, Blu-ray 3D, 3-disc set (2011-12)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee
Studio: Paramount 14624 [2/28/12] (Disc 1: Blu-ray + Bonus features; Disc 2: Blu-ray 3D; Disc 3: DVD)
Video: 16:9 1080p HD color 3D
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio or DD True HD 7.1, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Extras: “Shoot the Moon: The Making of Hugo;” “The Cinemagician Georges Melies;” “Big Effects, Small Scale,” “The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo;” “Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime”
Length: 126 minutes
Scorsese should probably have gotten the Oscar for Best Picture for this one instead of The Artist, if only because of the very personal nature of Hugo (stressing the importance of film preservation, a big interest of his) and his complete change of subject from making a series of violent crime-centered films to making one of the best family films ever.
It’s set in the 1930s at the Paris railway station—an amazing set full of clockwork, gears, stairways and passages where the orphan boy Hugo lives, winds and services the clocks in station—since his uncle who taught him what to do has disappeared. Hugo and his father had been rebuilding a writing or drawing man-shaped automaton, but his father was killed in a fire at the museum where he worked. Hugo continues to wind and service the clocks and live in the forgotten innards of the railway station, where nobody knows he is the one winding all the clocks. He pilfers food from the various food outlets at the station, and is threatened by the station inspector (Cohen), who catches orphan children and sends them to the orphanage.
Hugo also steals some parts from a toy counter in the station, run by Papa Georges, a crotchety old man who eventually catches Hugo and makes him work in the shop to cover some of his thefts. Papa’s god-daughter befriends Hugo, introduces him to the bookstore owner played by Lee, and aids him in trying to repair the automaton. It turns out she oddly has a heart-shaped key around her neck which is exactly the key the automaton needs to finally work. This all leads into a most instructive section on the life and importance of early French filmmaker Georges Melies, and develops into very thrilling and emotional scenes that describing here would spoil the film’s effect. There are also several wonderful side stories, such as the station inspector’s hesitant approach to a flower girl, a customer’s hesitant approach to the lady who owns the cafe in station, and the characters you briefly see around the tables in front of the cafe—including Django, Dali and James Joyce.
This is one of the best 3D movies since Avatar. The distant scenes of Paris and interior of the station are excellent, and those of both the enormous gears and clockwork as well as the tiny closeups of the inside of the automaton show up beautifully in 3D. I used the Xpand universal shutter 3D glasses, which worked well, although there seemed to be more noticeable ghosting in some of the closeup images in this 3D film. (They were $45, whereas Panasonic support says they are not approved, and tries to sell you their own $150 Panasonic 3D glasses.) Howard Shore’s music fit the film’s period very well also. The bonus features all look most worthwhile; haven’t seen them all as yet but plan to. It’s unfortunate that one of them couldn’t be the recent digital restoration of Melies’ handpainted color 16-minute 1902 film of The Trip to the Moon, which I saw just recently at the NorthWest Film Center. (It was restored, frame by frame, by some French filmmakers.)
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.