RENAISSANCE is a film that can be appreciated, idolized even, for its stunning visual artistry, as well as admired for its unsentimental homage to the film noir genre it reproduces with such precision. Relying neither on the gimmick of having the motion-capture animation reduced to only black and white, this is not cinematic stunt rather it’s a synthesis of the filmmaking art into a visceral visual experience
The setting is Paris 2054, and a re-imagined City of Lights still has the Eiffel Tower and Note Dame, but it also has transparent skyways and soaring, angular architecture that is as revolutionary as it is cold and precise. Over it all looms, Avalon, physically with building-sized billboards, and psychologically with its promise of semi-eternal youth and beauty. And it’s a beautiful young researcher at Avalon with a troubled older sister on whom the plot turns. Loner detective Karas catches the case, and the attention of people whose attention is never a good thing.
This is the near future, but while there are a few nifty gizmos to be found, a hand-held computer that springs virtually from what looks like half of a protractor is especially appealing, this is strictly about the hard-boiled mean streets of film noir. Nefarious motives, knights in armor that has more than a few chinks in it, a world where nothing is as it seems, and the only thing to be sure of is that nothing is certain. It’s up to Karas to make things right by any means necessary with the legal niceties as much a hindrance as a consideration.
This is noir stripped down to its very essence, flitting from stark abstraction to moments of even starker verisimilitude. The play of black and white reveals the outlines and highlights of the characters while plumbing the depths and scaling the heights of human nature. Nobility of spirit is to be found more as juxtaposition of character than refinement in and of itself, and the basest instincts are the ones that make the biggest impression. Sure, some of Karas’ dialogue is a bit clunky, but Daniel Craig’s half growl, half purr, delivery makes up for it by giving the words a world-weary intensity in which there still burns a spark of belief that doing the right thing is its own reward.
There is no commentary track, but the making-of featurette answers all questions. There is something infinitely fascinating in watching the way the filmmakers and CG wizards worked with actors dressed in little more than white dots brought to light characters capable of nuanced expressions as well as gut-wrenching action. While the palette of black, white, and a grudging grey used to indicate water, and glass, is simple, defining a world with that kind of constraint is revealed in all its complexity, and, in the words of one of the perpetrators, madness.
RENAISSANCE’s one misstep, as far as I’m concerned, is the decision to use colors at one point and in a particular way. It’s every bit as jarring as it’s intended to be, but it’s handled with none of the finesse shown elsewhere by a team that can create a palpable fire out of only black and white. The sudden shock goes on much too long, taking the audience too far out of the wonderful two-tone world in which it had been reveling. Fortunately, all one has to do with the DVD release is adjust your monitor accordingly.