I was hooked on Renaissance‘s look at first. At a time when A Scanner Darkly and Sin City were making the rounds, this sneaky little French animation peaked my interest. I didn’t know why, but it took me a good half a decade to find a copy of this movie at a reasonable price – namely, $5 at Fry’s. That said, there’s a good reason why this movie’s hard to find: it’s not very good.
Once you get past the film’s ultra-contrast-y black and white look, you’re left with a tech-noir story much like genre archetype Blade Runner or even Ghost in the Shell. Detective Karas (a pre-Bond Daniel Craig) is put in charge of finding a brilliant, young scientist who’s recently been kidnapped. He skirts the seedy Parisian underbelly and works on her employers at conglomerate Avalon. What was she working on, why does it matter so much to her kidnappers that she stay away from it? The film dutifully trudges from story note to story note as Karas uncovers the mystery to at all. It’s a shame that the script lack’s the director’s visual imagination.
Let’s get back to the look, shall we? You could probably take each frame individually and frame it. This film is dying for a 2k or 4k reproduction, rather than the cruddy interlaced presentation on DVD that I had. That said, the film in motion isn’t nearly as convincing. If you took away the clever shading effects, what you have left is a bunch of motion captured dummies that look a degree north of the ones we saw in Reboot. Long before Avatar or L.A. Noire, these are stiff, digital meat puppets. Further to the point, a car chase sequence in the middle of the film is amazingly suspense free because Renaissance simply can’t capture enough of the emotion in the movement. The film’s score also loves to amp up at inappropriate times.
The fact of the matter is, once you get past the visual style, you’re left with hardly enough substance to carry this film.