Sunday, July 30, 2006

RENAISSANCE - visually stunning sci-fi animation

On the face of it, RENAISSANCE is a French sci-fi movie. It's Paris, fifty years from now and the world is much as it we know it. The iconic buildings are still in place as well as that typically Boulevard Haussmann architecture. The only difference is that everything seems amp'ed up. Buildings are suspended on iron girders under which run subterannean free-ways. Glossy corporate HQ's hang in suspension over motorway junctions. ICT is recognisable but more invasive. Instead of wearing bluetooth headsets the Parisian fuzz have implanted Motorola smart-chips. Of particular interest to your humble movie-goer is a mega-corporation called Avalon - a sort of Unilever of the future - with interests from hard-core bio-genics to consumer products.

This beautifully imagined future-present is rendered in animation of a kind I have never seen before. Instead of old-fashioned hand-drawn animation or Pixar-style CGI we have a kind of motion-capture based animation here. It's like the darkest, coolest cartoon strip you've ever seen - complete with pen-and-ink hand-shaded cells, but rendered very very lifelike. The movie has as definite and unforgettable a visual style as Blade Runner.

The black and white visuals give RENAISSANCE the feel of a gritty urban 1940s film-noir. The classic tropes are all in place. Ilona's kidnap is investigated by a hard-ass cop, voiced in the English version by the new Bond, Daniel Craig. It is also being investigated by Ilona's elder sister - a frequenter of shady clubs. The sad part is that as beautifully rendered as this movie is, it resembles classic film noir in one more respect: it has as shambolic and rambling a narrative as I have ever seen on screen. Seriously, it moves at a pace bordering on the necrotic.

I soon lost patience with the RENAISSANCE but I can see how for those with more of a fancy for dark and brooding animation, it might become a cult movie. Certainly it is worth checking out, if only on DVD.

RENAISSANCE was released in France and Belgium in March 2006 and is currently on release in the UK. It opens in the US on September 22nd.

1 comment:

  1. This is much too long in coming. I haven't seen it on the release schedule but I did notice it was making the festival rounds. Hopefully it will open soon.