Wow. Renaissance evokes this word many times throughout the over hour and a half the film runs. While the film may not have the most compelling story, the animation of the characters, the sets and the world of Paris in 2054 engross the viewer to a point where you cannot move your eyes from the screen, in fear you might miss another beautiful piece of the motion capture, slash animation, slash CGI.
If you haven’t heard of or seen Renaissance, it’s likely because the film was produced in France and was only released in the US in a total of 13 theaters (raking a total of $70,644). On top of that, the film, costing $18 million to produce, accrued only $1.8 million worldwide. True, the idea of a world where a monopolistic company is in power is nothing new (1984 is likely the most popular idea of this futuristic world, while Equilibrium, V for Vendetta and even The Matrix to some extent, were the most recent theatrical renditions of such a world), but from a purely artistic standpoint alone, it’s a remarkable film.
As the DVDs documentary states, the film is all about the visuals. In a world that is purely made up of blacks and whites (grays are never used specifically, although shades of it does show up), the film is purely a remarkable film if only due to what it looks like. There were so many moments my mouth was agape at how beautiful the film looked, whether it was the reflections or the characters facial animations (regardless if they were performed by real actors, the CGI work done on the film is truly remarkable), the film never ceased to be a visual feast for the eyes.
Having said that about the visual aspect of the film, however, I’ll be the first to admit the films plot was somewhat predictable (though the ending wasn’t quite what I expected, so it had that going for it). True, it’s a thriller in a sense that the lead character, Barthélémy Karas, (voiced by Daniel Craig in the English dub) has to find a kidnapped woman and race against the clock to do so, but the action is never really that intense. On top of this, only a few of the movies large cast list is ever really flushed out and as a result they seem wooden at times. Perhaps it’s the English dub that does it, but the movie is very rushed in some aspects; so much so that I lose track of the secondary characters and when they appear again later in the film I have a hard time placing their pertinence to the story and the character of Karas.
Still, in the end, you know that this type of film is done simply for the artistic side of it. The movie is filled with iconic shots that stick with you throughout, such as the tilted camera angle of the nightclub owner hung up over his own bar and the exterior shots of the 2084 version of Paris. On top of that, the abundant use of glass floors and walls in the film is a real sight to see and it’s perhaps the visual elements alone that keep one interested in the story—or maybe the movie is too visually intriguing that it makes you forget about the story altogether.
There are only two real complaints I have about the film: early on in the film, the CGI seems odd and not fluid enough, while later on it seems completely human. I think most of this has to do with the hand movements, which are much more defined in the CGI after using the motion capture, whereas the specific and detailed animations of the human hand aren’t quite so pronounced in a live action film. The other is the English dub of the film, which, while it lines up with the mouth movements remarkably well (so much so I didn’t realize the film was originally in French until viewing the documentary), really doesn’t mesh well with character personalities or animations at times. As with all dubs, some of the emotion is lost in the new performances and while Craig has a great voice, it really seems off for the character at times. Still, the majority of the film is free of dub issues and there are only a few instances where they seem off.
For fans of animation and the many artistic interpretations it’s given over the years, this film is an invaluable piece that shows just how striking two of the most used colors in the world, black and white, can come together to make a remarkable looking film. Animation buffs reading this should know that this film comes Highly Recommended, while casual viewers merely interested in seeing just how awe-inspiring this film can look should give it a Rent.
Presented in a single disc amaray case with an insert listing chapters and disc art mirroring the cover, Renaissance comes with animated menus with audio over the main menu. There isn’t much on this disc in terms of extras, so don’t expect too much from this disc, I’m afraid.
Video and audio on this release is spectacular. I didn’t notice a single flaw in the video transfer (and why should there be? There are only two colors for the majority of the film). No compression, no interlacing, no nothin’—the film is beautiful and I’m sure it’d look even better in HD. The Dolby Digital 5.1 is a fair mix and offers a decent surround experience, but most of the film is focused in the front channels as there is a hefty amount of dialogue in the film that moves the story along.
Moving onto the sole special feature is a “Making of” featurette. This featurette is entirely in French with English subtitles and features interviews with the cast and crew of the film. It’s interesting as it really gives you an idea of just how much the film was artistically driven, even to the point where 20-30 takes would be done on one shot to get the actors emotions just right so that it could be more detailed on screen. It’s a great companion piece to the film and I really don’t think we could’ve gotten much else to really describe the film more than this documentary does.
Overall the disc is satisfactory for such a film and even seeing it on DVD after the cost of the film and the box office intake is surprising enough as is. Hopefully the film will find an audience on DVD, even if it’s just in the animation area—it’s a film that needs to be seen purely for a visual reason. Recommended.
Renaissance arrives on DVD on July 24th.