Movie-Hype (#708) - RENAISSANCE
In a way, writing a review is almost unnecessary. If you take one minute and seventeen seconds to watch this trailer, you will either want to watch the movie or you will not.
Well, just in case….
RENAISSANCE is a bold new movie with an audacious vision of where filmmaking might be headed. Liberally borrowing plot and style from avant-garde Cinema milestones (such as BLADE RUNNER, GHOST IN THE SHELL, SIN CITY, and THE ANIMATRIX; just to name a few), RENAISSANCE uses motion capture technology in a completely unheard of way to give us the first black and white animated sci-fi film noire cyberpunk detective story.
When I say the film is in black and white, I am not kidding. There is literally no gray here, or any other colors. Everything is in black and white. Animating people has been done. Black and white has been done. (The story will be very familiar for fans of any of the above genres, but that is not important.) Putting them all together: you get a unique movie experience.
If you are like me, you are willing to see a movie that is dramatically different and daring just for that, even if the movie might not completely work. And if the movie kicks ass…..
Did I mention that RENAISSANCE totally kicks ass?
Paris: 2054. You have all seen futuristic movies, so I will not spend three paragraphs detailing neat little grace note features, but somehow the animation gives it a fresh feel. (Actually, I do want to mention one thing: the famous Pont Neuf Bridge now has "clear" concrete. Think about the visual possibilities.)
One of the cool things about animation is that they can do things with their characters that real people cannot. However, since RENAISSANCE filmed real people, the "magical" aspects of the future seem even cooler, because it feels real. On the other hand, with ONLY black and white in the palette the film can never be real, so there is a delicious contradiction going on. They do things in this movie that seem impossible, which is a strange thing to say for an animated film, but there is that Matrix quality of "OMFG! Did you see that?" to at least three scenes. I guess because of the motion capture and how real the faces are you get sucked in as if this world existed, so when suddenly the "camera" shifts radically into an impossible shot there is even more of an impact.
The English language voice work is good enough that I STRONGLY DISCOURAGE you idiots out there who insist on watching animated films in their original language. For a regular movie, I agree that dubbing is terrible, but in animation, there isn't the synchronicity problem, not to mention that fact that you do not want to waste one single second "reading" when there is so much to look at. (Daniel Craig headlines a cast that includes Catherine McCormack and Ian Holm.)
The story is somewhat conventional for Cyberpunk/Sci-Fi, and rather tough to follow right at first, but bear with the movie; they pull things together into a taught net by the middle. Actually, RENAISSANCE may be no tougher to follow than any movie straddling that many genres, but I personally was distracted because I just could not stop staring at the visuals. The people were amazing. The sets were amazing. And—this is not a small point—because it is only in black and white, you really have to pay attention to what you are looking at. There were times when I felt like I was checking out one of those Old/Young woman pics.
The final "message" of RENAISSANCE is, to be charitable, not well translated from the French. Or maybe I do not understand what they are driving at, and feel they did not come close to "proving" anything. But it does not matter. Normally I would say "story" trumps all aspects of a movie, but here I make an exception. (Besides, other than the ultimate conclusion, the story really does work well once all the pieces are interlocked and moving.) For all the neat story stuff going on, you see RENAISSANCE for one reason only: to throw your eyes a party. You have never seen anything like it.
Style over Substance sounds like a cynical critique of our modern world, but in this case they are one and the same. It's not just about looking cool and kicking ass, it's about reminding us why Cinema is such a dynamic Artistic Medium, capable of that which none other is: to show us the future now. The filmmakers of RENAISSANCE have stepped out on the ledge of movie making to show us the possibilities. It is up to you to follow.