Directed by Christian Volckman
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 105 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French
Subtitles: EHD, French, Spanish
Release Date: July 24, 2007
Review Date: July 16, 2007
Combining the motion capture technology of The Polar Express, the stark graphic novel look and tone of Sin City (along with the profanity, hence the R-rating), and the futuristic ambience of Blade Runner, Renaissance is an animated film noir in a class by itself. Illustrated in eye-popping, high contrast black and white (with no gray in between for almost the entire film), this movie if nothing else will serve as a reference work for measuring true blacks and pure whites on DVD. To call it an amazing looking film doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of this experimental wonder.
We’re in 2054 Paris, and Daniel Craig voices the role of Karas, hard-boiled police captain charged with locating a kidnapped scientist Illona Tasuiev (Ramola Garoi). Illona works for the Avalon Corporation whose beauty products are in constant sight via living billboards and other modes of advertising. Of course, with this being a film noir, there’s a lot more to the plot than a simple kidnapping, and Karas will find the path dangerously circuitous before he finally arrives at his objective. Along the way he become sweet on Illona’s feisty sister Bislane (Catherine McCormack) which naturally complicates matters.
Director Christian Volckman has achieved a miraculous blending of real life and animated props into a seamless entity with the bleached images seeming much more of a piece than one would have thought possible. This does for animation what Sin City did for the live action blending of real and CGI. And many of the images are simply breathtaking: in particular, a shot of Illona’s confinement room which sprouts as a garden of epic proportions. The constant falling rain, a noir necessity, is beautifully represented in the film while the art direction for this future Paris couldn’t be more fascinating with subways covered by glass walkways all shown to astonishing 3-D-like effect.
The twisty plot gets a bit overly complex to wade through in one sitting (but in noir that’s usually expected; people are still trying to figure out The Big Sleep), but I found it clearer on a second viewing (the unusual names given the characters don’t help). And you’ll want to watch it again quickly to marvel again at the many wonderful effects that these outstanding animators have been able to achieve. This is one of those films that’s going to be more jaw-dropping the larger your viewing screen happens to be. Combine expert visuals with state of the art sound, and this becomes one of the year’s real surprises.
The film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio is presented in anamorphic video. The blacks are black enough to blend effortlessly into the black letterbox bars, and the whites are pure and very bright. No need to talk about shadow detail or contrast because the film was made to stay totally within black and white hues with nothing in between. There are no distracting artifacts in this pristine presentation. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound engages all available channels with constant music and sound effects throughout the film’s running time. Dialog is directional depending on the circumstances of the plot and is very well recorded.
The DVD offers a 25½ -minute “making of” documentary for Renaissance. As this project originated in France (and also had financial backing from Luxembourg and British interests), the documentary is in French with yellow English subtitles. They are easy to read but go by very quickly due to the rapid speaking of the interviewees. It offers some marvelous behind the scenes views at how the motion capture was achieved and the one-of-a-kind look the filmmakers were interested in achieving for their final product. Interestingly, different French actors did the movement and voices for the original production (which is not made totally clear in the documentary). The English-speaking cast is not mentioned in the documentary though they and not the French speaking cast receive screen credit on this DVD. The featurette is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.
There are the usual trailers for upcoming releases including Invisible, The Hoax, Neverwas, The Lookout, and Roger Corman.
As one of the most unusual animated features being offered in years, the curiosity factor alone would seem to suggest a rental for this title. If you’re a big fan of film noir and want to see it carried through on an animated scale, Renaissance is definitely for you.