Saturday, 28 July 2007
Renaissance (2006) dir. Christian Volckman
Voices by: Daniel Craig, Romolo Garai, Jonathan Pryce
“Renaissance” is one of those bold visual experiments that looks astonishing in short bursts but fails in the necessities of feature length film. It’s a stunning anime/noir film that uses CGI and Motion Capture technologies to create a unique high contrast B&W look. “Renaissance” suffers mostly in content and keeping our attention beyond the novelty of the form.
Set in Paris 2054, Ilona Tasuiev, a scientist working for a beauty and cosmetics company, Avalon, is kidnapped outside of a nightclub. Police detective Barthelemy Karas is hired by Avalon to find her. Karas befriends and falls in love with Ilona’s sister Bislane and so the search becomes more personal to him. Karas’ gumshoing uncovers a corporate conspiracy and unethical scientific practices that go back 50 years. They involve genetic manipulation of children in hopes of finding a cure for aging. Illona was at the centre of this research and was on the cusp of completing the quest for eternal life.
As Karas learns more of Ilona’s importance to the company, Avalon turns on him and target’s Karas. Knowing the information Ilona possesses and the ramifications for the human race Karas is faced with life or death ethical questions as well as the promises he made to Bislane, all of which he must reconcile.
The plot in “Renaissance” get convoluted very quickly. Both the look and story are inspired by Japanese anime – specifically “Akira”. I have to admit I’m not the biggest anime fan, and “Akira” certainly went over my head. And the same goes for much of “Renaissance’s” plot. I still don’t know why Ilona’s was kidnapped – even Wikipedia couldn’t supply a satisfying answer.
But “Renaissance” is anchored in its remarkable visual design. It’s a mash of “Sin City”, “Akira”, “A Scanner Darkly” and “Blade Runner”. In fact, “Renaissance” resembles most Frank Miller’s artwork in the original Sin City graphic novel. There are no shades of grey in “Renaissance” just the hard contrast of black and white. While it looks fabulous, there are many tradeoffs. Everything is in focus, so depth is lost in the contrast. Volckman tries to make up for that by moving his camera. These moments are great, but the lack of depth means it is very diffcult to know where to look at in the frame. It wasn’t until 15 or 20 mins into the film where I could actually recognize characters by their face. Rarely do we see an entire character’s face. Because there’s no grey we only ever see a highlight or rim of a character’s facial features.
The film contains a few short action sequences. A couple of gun battles, one car chase and one running chase is about all we get. This was disappointing considering the opportunity the technology presents to create enormously creative and dynamic sequences we’ve never seen before. Volckman envisions a really cool and interesting Paris, specifically the glass enclosures which surround much of the city, but much more of that design could have been exploited with respect to the action. Volckman seems to be too much into the hardboiled aspects of the plot, which actually bog the film down instead of entertaining us. The film is for the videogame generation and so gamers out there need their senses excersised.
“Renaissance” would have worked much better as a short film where the effect of the brilliant design stays with you throughout the film. “Renaissance” joins “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” and “Final Fantasy” as anime experiments that are more easily admired than enjoyed.
Buy it here: Renaissance