"Renaissance" is an absolutely stunning work of art. It's a magnificently animated, enjoyable future noir thriller that I'm sure many have probably never heard of, as the film's theatrical release was a mere thirteen screens - a shockingly small release for something this bold. The film's script isn't without some issues and the movie could be tightened by a couple of minutes, but the story is still compelling and every frame of the film is a more breathtaking sight than the last.
Director Christian Volckman combines motion capture and black and white animation and the result is groundbreaking: it takes the kind of look and mood and atmosphere that Robert Rodriquez was able to achieve in "Sin City" (or the Alex Proyas film, "Dark City") and takes it even further. I'd love to see a film adaptation of the "Max Payne" video game series using this technique.
The story occurs in Paris in 2054, where one's every move is monitored. Karas (voiced by Daniel Craig) is a police officer who is faced with the task of finding Ilona (Romola Garai), a scientist working at a rather sinister pharmaceutical company called Avalon. The girl - who holds a surprising secret - was kidnapped late one night and Karas finds himself sinking further and further into the underworld to find her, questioning suspects like Avalon CEO Dellenbach (Jonathan Pryce, in an enjoyably slimy performance.)
The film's story is similar to quite a few sci-fi/noir films that have come before it. However, despite familiar elements, the film's ability to completely build a haunting and coldly beautiful future noir world (which blends elements of current Paris with futuristic touches) does certainly catch the eye and give the story an absolutely incredible backdrop that elevates what may be familiar elements from other stories. It's not only the style that impresses, but the imaginative composition and construction of the film's visuals (which reportedly took over 5 years to create), such as the one above. Camera moves throughout the film are brisk and energetic, such as an incredibly tense car chase through the crowded streets of the city.
It does take a moment to adjust to the film's mindblowing visual style and "Renaissance" does shift the balance a little bit more towards style than substance, but despite some familiar, "Blade Runner"-ish elements, "Renaissance"'s revolutionary visual style and mostly solid future noir tale is absolutely worth catching on DVD.
VIDEO: "Renaissance" is presented by Miramax in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an exceptional transfer of the material, with no flaws of note. Sharpness and detail are exceptional, with every minor detail of the animation visible showing crisply and clearly. No edge enhancement or artifacting was noticed, and there were no print flaws (I'm guessing this may be a "direct-from-digital" transfer. Overall, this was a spotless presentation.
SOUND: "Renaissance" is presented with a stunning Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The film's sound design is stellar, with the action sequences providing powerful, aggressive use of the surrounds to place the viewer in the midst of the action. Strong bass is also present, as well. Throughout the quieter scenes, the surrounds are used expertly to open the audio out into the listing space, offering ambience, startling sound effects and score. Overall, this was a wonderfully entertaining sound presentation.
EXTRAS: A 27-minute making of (French with English subtitles) is included, as are a few trailers for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: It does take a moment to adjust to the film's visual style and "Renaissance" does shift the balance a little bit more towards style than substance, but despite some familiar, "Blade Runner"-ish elements, "Renaissance"'s revolutionary visual style and mostly solid future noir tale is absolutely worth catching on DVD. Recommended.
The Film A-