Martin Scorsese’s 3D Masterpiece Hugo gets a 4K UHD upgrade from Arrow Video with not only a 4K Restoration but filled with special features.
Many will point to Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino as the magnum opuses of director Martin Scorsese’s career. Yes, those are beautifully realized amazing films. They exhibit a muscular filmmaking style and skill set beyond reproach. Though it feels oftentimes these are the only films that many discuss within Scorsese’s career. Many forget the director is an unparalleled storyteller that is able to hop nimbly from genre to genre with the same sort of muscular stylistic intelligence he brings to his oft-discussed work.
From Epics about Religion (Silence and The Last Temptation of Christ) to Costume Romances (The Age of Innocence) to Horror Films (Shutter Island) to Musicals (New York, New York) there isn’t anything that the director hasn’t attempted. Case in point; Hugo, a children’s film about the importance of Preservation. Scorsese is working in a lighter hue but by no means is fluff. In fact, Hugo is quite the opposite. There is a warmth to the film that is here without consequence or exception that reveals Scorsese’s true nature – a humanist that loves the power of the darkened theater and every ounce of history behind those celluloid images projected on the screen.
A mystery and adventure film of sorts, Hugo, the film delights in the fairy tale version of Paris in the 1920s. A place where Hugo, an orphaned child, (Asa Butterfield) runs the various clocks and clockworks of the Train Station while evading capture by the Constable (Sasha Baron Cohen) who relishes catching “street urchins” (his not my words) throwing them to the orphanage. It is in the clockworks that Hugo is trying to repair an automaton that may hold the key to his father’s (Jude Law) death. With the help of a curious young girl (Chole Grace Moritz), they unlock the secrets of the automaton that leads them to none other than Silent Film Director George Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who much like the automaton is in disrepair.
Scorsese working with Novelist/Co-Screenwriter Brian Selznick and Co-Screenwriter John Logan create a film that feels like a layered cake of surprises and delights. What could have been a dull history lesson is anything but. The film begins confidently as a Street Urchin film with the energy and force of Scorsese’s own Mean Streets. Once the film has hooked you, the pace and story slow down. Revealing more than just a game of chase. Rather a mystery that layer upon layer adds to its both emotional and artistic relevance that swells to a wonderful crescendo by its passionate ending.
Hugo isn’t merely a child’s film. Calling it one would be like calling Raging Bull a ‘boxing picture’. To do so to either or anything in Scorsese’s filmography would be doing said art a major disservice. Simply put Hugo is an impassioned plead for preservation not only in film but in life. Without it, we are all doomed to forget even what is most precious to us. The way that Scorsese makes a case for this is one of the most touching and poignant pieces of cinema he has yet to create.
The 4K UHD
The 4K restoration of the 2D version of the film in Dolby Vision is a minor miracle. The image is verbose and beautiful. The digitally shot film looks nothing like the films of the era (it was released in 2011 at the height of 3D and the beginning of the Digital Era). The restoration captures the brilliance and golden-hued beauty of cinematographer Robert Richardson’s work. There isn’t a hint of film grain present but that isn’t a problem. The image feels more filmic than the films shot digitally at the time that try to mimic film’s properties. Richardson leaning into the tech and his fantastic use of lighting, along with Scorsese’s understanding of camera placement, movement, and color leads to the best hybrid of both film and digital.
In a perfect world, we would have a 4K version of the director’s preferred version of the film. That is Hugo in 3D. Those of us that do have the proper setup to view the film in 3D are in for a marvelous treat. The high-def version of the film is offered in 3D and appears to be newly sourced from the restoration done. The result is a film that’s highly active in the third dimension without suffering the dreaded ghosting or doubling-up effect that did create issues from the original 2011 3D Blu-Ray release. Huge props to Arrow Video for including this version and going the extra mile with a new version of the 3D.
Note: 3D will only play on 3D-equipped players and Monitors.
They include the following;
DISCS ONE & TWO – FEATURE & EXTRAS (BLU-RAY + 4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY)
- Audio commentary by filmmaker and writer Jon Spira, publisher of The Lost Autobiography of Georges Méliès
- Theatrical trailer
The all-new Audio commentary by filmmaker and writer Jon Spira, publisher of The Lost Autobiography of Georges Méliès begins with why he felt was the reason that Arrow Video chose him for the commentary on Hugo. Some of the other details include Scorsese’s wanting to make a 3D since childhood; why the 3D is so special in Hugo above many other films; a discussion of the 3 waves of 3Ds – the origins of in the 1950s, in the 1990s with IMAX and the shutterglasses, and finally the final wave that began with James Cameron’s Avatar; Cameron’s thoughts on Hugo; throughout Spira gives “facts vs fiction” on Méliès, the era, the films and tech of the era and more; a larger discussion of the various cast of actors including Asa Butterfield, Jude Law, Sasha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Richard Griffith, Emily Mortimer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Christopher Lee, Chole Grace Mortiz, and others – and detailed accounts of their careers and their work here; detailed discussions on the production design (Dante Feretti), costumes (Sandy Powell), cinematography (Richardson), editing (Thelma Schoonmaker), and score (Howard Shore) – and how it all relates to the era and the difficulty producing 3D; and much more. Spira’s heavily researched and informational commentary is the next best thing to having Scorsese himself do a track.
DISC THREE – BONUS DISC (BLU-RAY)
- Inventing Hugo Cabret
- Capturing Dreams
- The Music of Dreams
- Ian Christie on Hugo
- Secret Machines: Hugo and Film Preservation
- Creating New Worlds
- Papa Georges Made Movies
- Méliès at the time of Hugo
- 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
- Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime
- Image Gallery
Interviews – Arrow has grouped the three interviews together.
- Inventing Hugo Cabret (54:49) – is an all-new interview with Brian Selznick author and illustrator of the original novel on which the film is based begins with his own admission that the concept was the “most uncommercial concept” for a novel. Some of the details include his early childhood and love of invention, drawing, reading, and writing; his emotional reaction to Journey to the Moon – and his love of sleight of hand and specifically “magic”; how Houdini brought him to Méliès; Houdini Box – his first book which leads to Hugo; the writing Hugo and how meeting Maurice Sendak turned into friendship and mentorship; the various pieces and events that occurred that brought him to the story of The Invention of Hugo Cabaret; the writing and design/construction of the book itself; the adaptation of the book by Scorsese and John Logan – and his view on the production, the film itself, and how much is about film preservation; the personal touches that connected Scorsese to the story; how Hugo’s rights sold and eventually got Scorsese attached to direct; being able to visit the sets and his impression; the moments that did not make the film that he wishes did from his novel; the first time he saw of the film; and much more.
- Capturing Dreams (40:02) – is an all-new interview with director of photography Robert Richardson that begins with why Scorsese decided to direct this film. Some of the other details include his first interaction with Méliès in college and returning to the work with Scorsese during the production of Hugo; working in 3D for the first time – also a larger discussion of how they approached the work and how it differed from working in 2D; how Richardson got the film – also a fuller discussion of how they began work beginning with Casino; how working with Martin Scorsese as a cinematographer; how the book and the drawing/art within helped Scorsese and company compose shots and even mimic the framing from the work that Selznick did; a larger pragmatic discussion of the work he does as a cinematographer – preparation and actual execution; the screenings that occur during a Scorsese film – and how he met QT during one of these on an early film; how they came to about shooting 3D – a larger pragmatic discussion of how the tech work and how it changed things and how much had changed, like having to create two versions (a 3D and 2D), color grading, the spatial and geographical work that changes; a great discussion of frame rates (specifically what happens with 120FPS); and much more. Richardson gives a truly wonderful interview that gives a technical “nuts & bolts” overview of the work that he does not just on this shoot but on productions in general.
- The Music of Dreams (13:49) – a new interview with composer Howard Shore begins with how he met Martin Scorsese through David Cronenberg. Some of the details include what inspired and what instruments were used to get the sound they were looking for; how he works on paper first – and his entire process to produce compositions which he labels “old school”; how clocks were important in the film and in the score; some of the work the sound mixer did to tune certain sounds matched the score’s tone; and much more.
Ian Christie on Hugo (23:12) – is an all-new interview with the acclaimed film historian and editor of Scorsese on Scorsese opens with Christie discussing how the film is a departure from his other work – and how reactive Scorsese is in his choices. Some of the details include the adaptation of the Novel – and how closely it hued to the book; the film preservation aspect of the film – and Scorsese’s stood for preservation for most of his career; Scorsese’s early life and how it tied to Hugo; the acting by the cast – including Scorsese’s casting actors he’s always wanted to work with; the work of cinematographer Robert Richardson – a larger discussion of Scorsese use of multiple cinematographers in his work; the use of 3D – and Scorsese single use of the tech here; some examples of Scorsese (and editor Thelma Schoonmaker) breaking the rules of 3D for effect; the fact and fiction of how Méliès got into film; and much more.
Secret Machines: Hugo and Film Preservation (18:17) – a new visual essay by filmmaker and critic Scout Tafoya discusses the various films in 2011 that pushed the boundaries of tech and filmmaking where Hugo was released pushing even more boundaries. Tafoya’s visual essay/commentary on the film discusses the personal journey of Scorsese to get to the film, the underlying themes, and how those are accomplished. The history of early film and how it relates to the film and perseveration. Tafoya’s work here is accomplishedly edited and brings in many of the director’s other work.
Creating New Worlds (37:43) – an all-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 which begins in the Georges Méliès museum. Some of the details include an account of Méliès early life before the film; how he found his love for misdirection/magic in London; his purchasing of the Robert Houdini theater – for the purpose to begin his own magical shows and experiments in various arts; how the various early iterations of Film inspired him and pushed him into the newly created art of Filmmaking aka the Cinematograph; the building of his studio and how this would be some of the techniques that even modern studios use today; how some of the techniques they pioneered during the early days are directly connected to modern FX work today; his art that he drew for the cast and crew to understand his visions that could be considered the earliest versions of preproduction art and storyboarding; the use of “man in suit” which became a staple in FX work – still being done today; a larger discussion of Méliès greatest work A Trip to the Moon; and much more. In French, with English Subtitles.
Papa Georges Made Movies (10:06) – an all-new featurette in which film critic and historian Pamela Hutchinson explores the days of early cinema begins with her setting the stage by discussing the very best ways to learn about cinema – which are settings in Hugo. The featurette is set at Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in London in which she discusses the various figures, instruments, and toys that helped build cinema.
Méliès at the time of Hugo (7:43) – an all-new visual essay by filmmaker and writer Jon Spira which is almost a companion piece to his informative commentary track. Spira does a great job of separating fact from fiction in the film Hugo, not just saying where he was at the time but giving us context of how he got there with a historical account of the era of Silent Film.
Shoot the Moon: The Making of Hugo (19:48) – this archival making-of featurette (from the original release) is an all-too-brief look at the production of the film. The featurette covers the finding the production, the development – and why he made the film, the production, and release. Featuring comments by Director Scorsese, Novelist Selznick, Actors Sir Ben Kingsley, Asia Butterfield, Chole Grace Mortiz, France De La Tor; Screenwriter John Logan, and others.
The Cinemagician: Georges Méliès (15:40) – this archival featurette (from the original release) looks at the life and work of Méliès. Featuring comments by Director Scorsese, Novelist Selznick, actor Kingsley, producer Graham King, great-great-granddaughter of Méliès Pauline Duclaud-Lacoste, and others.
The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo (12:45) – this archival featurette (from the original release) looks at the Automaton that features so prominently featured in the film. The discussion of the history of Automatons, and how the Automaton was accomplished without any VFX or computer-generated trickery. Featuring comments by Automaton maker Dug North, Director Scorsese, and others.
Big Effects, Small Scale (5:54) – this archival featurette (from the original release) looks at how the train crash was created using both new and old technology – all designed for 3D. This is a fantastic look at the building of the models and sets to achieve the work. Featuring comments by VFX Supervisor/2nd Unit Director Rob Legato, Miniatures Crew Chief Forest Fischer, Mechanical FX Supervisor Scott Beverly, and others.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime (3:33) – this archival featurette (from the original release) is a bit of cheekiness that you’d expect from Cohen.
Image Gallery – The gallery consists of 25 various pieces of poster art, behind-the-scenes photos, production stills, and more. The Gallery can be navigated by using your next and back chapter stop buttons on your remote, does not play automatically.
The Final Thought
Arrow Video has done justice to this special – even in Scorsese’s filmography – film giving it a luminous new 4K restoration, keeping the 3D edition, and filling the set with vital special features. Midway through 2023 and this is one of the very best home video sets released. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!