Renaissance
All these shadows are making me nauseous.

Theatrical Release Date: 03/15/2006 (France), 09/22/2006 (USA)
Director: Christian Volckman
Featuring the Voices of: Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Jonathan Pryce & Ian Holm

Running around in limited release is the visually stunning quasi-animated film, “Renaissance”. But have no fear, this is not another film where computer generated animals do crazy things and make lewd remarks.

The primary focus of the film is on finding a kidnapped scientist and unraveling a mystery involving her work for a large corporation in 2046 Paris.

No, “Renaissance” is definitely for the adult crowd, more of a sci-fi film noir. Think “Sin City” meets “Minority Report”. Not a good thought? Well, it’s the best I can do.

To separate the film from all the others, director Christian Volckman employed an intriguing visual style.

The film is almost exclusively black and white motion capture animation.

This allows for really great use of shadows and perspective. There was a fluidity and sense of life that doesn’t come through sometimes with much more delineated work in traditional hand drawn animation.

In the beginning, it takes some getting used to, almost like getting your sea legs on a boat. The movements are just so slightly off that it takes your brain a bit longer to process the scene.

Then there is the black and white aspect, which creates a much more muddled sense of the scene and what is going on. This is usually used in a positive manner but every now and then I found the action jumbled and hard to make out.

Aside from the visual technique employed, the story is pretty straightforward. If you’ve seen any sci-fi mysteries, you’ll figure this one out pretty quick. The way the story develops was almost like a cross between an animated “Batman” episode mixed slightly with a 40’s noir crime thriller.

While that may be interesting, I though the story and character development were lacking and weak to say the least. Perhaps most distressing is that the big underlying issue that is to be unraveled is just … well, stupid.

I can see how the issues the film brings up could be interesting and significant but the manner in which it is used and dealt with creates an overall sense that nothing earth shattering is going on – which is not what the filmmakers seem to be going for.

On the positive side, the voice acting was done fairly well seeing that this is a French film that was released here with an English dubbed soundtrack and included the talents of Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Jonathan Pryce and Ian Holm.

It might be interesting to see again using the French language track and reading the subtitles. Maybe the gravity of the story was lost in the dubbing, which happens often in foreign animation.

Well, unless you’re only out to see the film because of its visual style, I can’t necessarily recommend it. I’m giving “Renaissance” a 2 out of 5. I wanted to like it more but my personal distaste of noir and its shallow story kept me from becoming too enthralled.

Kudos to the visual art department but most everyone else involved shouldn’t be checking their mailboxes this winter for Christmas cards from yours truly.