After a strong showing at last night's Academy Awards ceremony - although maybe not quite as strong as Paramount Pictures had hoped - director Martin Scorsese's 3D epic Hugo arrives this week on Blu-ray. For a movie that is, ostensibly, a children's story, Hugo stands as Scorsese's most personal work; looking at the alienated, cloistered title character immediately conjures up details from the director's sheltered early life, and the relationship between Hugo and the dejected screen legend Georges Méliès recalls Scorsese's own involvement with British auteur Michael Powell.
However, these parallels do not limit Hugo's universal appeal. Scorsese has crafted a visually stunning, deeply felt drama about finding one's place in the world that works even for viewers unfamiliar with Scorsese's backstory. As Martin Liebman writes in his Blu-ray review, "The movie is personal and involved but also simple and heartwarming. It exudes a sense of magic and wonder, championing the power of the imagination and the role of film as something special to be cherished, experienced, and loved."
The auteur theory makes a second appearance this Tuesday in Louis Malle's final feature, Vanya on 42nd Street. Like Lacombe, Lucien and My Dinner with Andre before it, Vanya finds Malle playing with traditional notions of "reality" and "fiction"; he uses Andre Gregory's intimate revival of Uncle Vanya to question the nature of drama and to what degree it can transcend its trappings.
The "Malle touch" comes from his subtle manipulation of documentary and staged footage; his generosity towards his actors (which include Wallace Shawn, George Gaynes, Brooke Smith, and Julianne Moore); and from his refusal to bog the work down in stuffy conceits. With its Brechtian stage dynamics, Vanya on 42nd Street could be unbearably pretentious, but Malle manages a tone that is simultaneously breezy and profound. Svet Atanasov's Blu-ray review praises, in particular, "the outstanding cast. There is a very real connection between the actors that transcends far beyond what is typically regarded as acting. The conflicts they are involved with are not staged, they are happening. The emotions are real, the reactions are authentic."
Another directing legend, the great Fritz Lang, gets an HD upgrade with Kino's "Classics Edition" of Scarlet Street. The film has long languished in the public domain, but this new Library of Congress restoration fixes that neglect, making clear what so incensed the censors back in 1945: this is a cynical and suggestively explicit film noir, featuring two loathsomely memorable villains in Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea and a lead performance from Edward G. Robinson that beautifully exploits his capacity for both great tenderness as well as great rage.
Scarlet Street has endured because it views sin through more than just the prism of surface action; Casey Broadwater uses his Blu-ray review to praise how Lang fosters "an increasingly more serious, moralistic quality as it nears its conclusion, with the message that even if a criminal isn't caught, his guilty conscience is punishment enough. There's also plenty of room to read the film as a statement about how artistic ambition is squelched by the workaday, cog-in-a-corporate-wheel capitalist routine."
Finally, the "Future Midnight Movie Favorite" recognition goes to director Mark Pellington's intense drama, I Melt with You. Using a sterling central ensemble that includes Rob Lowe, Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, and Christian McKay, Pellington means to challenge modern notions of traditional masculinity, and he's certainly succeeded, as far as the word "challenge" is concerned. I Melt with You maintains a fever pitch, and its visual and aural histrionics become overwhelming very early into its 116-minute runtime.
Nevertheless, the picture consistently inspires strong emotions (appreciation or revulsion, with little in between); one can respect its willingness to go big even if it makes for an often unpleasant screen experience. Casey Broadwater's opinion skews along the "revulsion" end of the spectrum, criticizing in his review how "the film completely loses it. Completely. Goes off the rails, jumps the shark - whatever - with a last half devoted a strange, frankly unbelievable oath the friends signed twenty-five years before in college. It's almost like the movie itself suffers a mid-life crisis...it makes some risky (narrative) decisions that don't pay off, and after a last-ditch effort to be energetic and relevant, it loses steam and trudges slowly to an unfulfilling end. I don't know what's more depressing, the film's we've-all-wasted-our-lives subject matter or the fact that the film is a waste of two hours of your life."
@ I heart criterion, no you are not. i thought it looked intriguing in previews and was upset that i did not get to see it in theaters. but after watching it the other day, while yes the story is genuine and heart felt, i really felt quite bored through most of it. i would def not say its a terrible movie, but not something i would want to add to my collection and watch again and again. but thats just my opinion. obviously plenty of people love it.
I bought HUGO 3D from an import reseller and I received it two days ago. Kinda funny because the movie opened in Germany in theaters last month (February 2012) and I actually only got to seeing myself just 2 weeks ago. As movie lovers, I guess most of us can more easily relate to Scorcese's passion for cinema history and restoration. Anyway, I thought HUGO looked gorgeous in 3D - which shows that when correctly applied 3D can be a wonderful technical tool. However, it cannot make a bad movie good, neither more interesting or involving --- a nugget of wisdom a certain Mr. Lucas should take to heart .... Anyway, I have just bought a 3D capable TV, have the glasses and later this month I will have to upgrade my blu-ray player - an expensive proposition, as it also has to be multiregion like my last one. Nevertheless, HUGO remain my second favourite movie so far -- behind my absolute favourite "The Artist". I have a pre-order running with FNAC.fr and the blu-ray is to be released in France in just 2 weeks time. I cannot wait.