Style trumps substance in Renaissance
, a 2006 French film whose breathtaking visuals largely overcome its shortcomings in the areas of story and character development. Detailed in a lengthy and absorbing "making of" featurette, the film's look is a combination of CG animation, motion capture, and a palette consisting solely of black & white (there are a few splashes of color late in the proceedings, but no gray whatsoever). And while it has a few obvious antecedents (the filmmakers readily acknowledge the influence of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner
, not to mention the much earlier, Expressionist work of Fritz Lang and Orson Welles), Renaissance
, with its commingling of heavily processed live action and graphic novel sensibilities, looks very little like anything you've ever seen before. The setting is Paris in the year 2054, and it is here that director Christian Volckman and his crew do their best work.
The French capital is certainly recognisable (the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre's Sacre Coeur are two familiar landmarks), but its classic architecture is glazed with all manner of futuristic touches, from vast glass penthouses to layers of transparent walkways outside Notre Dame Cathedral; and with the preponderance of the action taking place at night, frequently in the rain, the City of Light more often suggests a very literal representation of film noir. As for the story, it's nothing special. Hard-nosed police Captain Barthélémy Karas (voiced in this English version by Daniel Craig) is searching for a female scientist who works for Avalon, one of those sinister mega-corporations that seem to run everything in movies like this; seems the woman, who has been kidnapped, possesses what's referred to as "the protocol for immortality," and Avalon, which promises good health, beauty, and long life for all, desperately wants her back. The characters are a bit stiff (physically and otherwise), the dialogue is occasionally stilted, and the film is sometimes so dark that it's hard to tell what's going on. But most of Renaissance looks so amazing that such deficiencies can easily be ignored, at least the first time through. --Sam Graham
Sci-fi film noir filmed in a unique style in which real actors are transformed through motion-capture animation to create a black and white comic-strip style. Set in a near-future Paris, the film depicts the city as a menacing place dominated by the vast and all-seeing Avalon Corporation, which has insinuated itself into every aspect of modern life through its sales of the ultimate commodities: youth and beauty. When a beautiful young scientist, Ilona (Romola Garai) is kidnapped, police officer Barthélémy Karas (Daniel Craig) is assigned to solve the case. His investigation leads him down a deadly path, and he eventually discovers that events that took place back in 2006 have irrevocably affected the future of humankind with dire consequences.