While not the groundbreaking genre revival its title would imply, Christian Volckman’s Franco-noir Renaissance is, in purely technical terms, something of an evolutionary step up from Sin City, employing motion capture technology and stark black-and-white computer artistry to breathe animated, three-dimensional life into static, flat graphic novel imagery. Made without the use of sets or actors (and its originally French-speaking characters’ lip movements reconfigured for their new English-language dialogue), Volckman’s directorial debut merges cinematic sensibilities with those of comic books, animé, video games, and pop art, its aesthetic hybridization mirrored in its architectural mélange of old world and high-tech edifices, its 2054 Paris’s multicultural populace, and its mysterious plot’s interest in DNA manipulation. It’s an approach with often-stunning yields, the hyper-stylized humanistic movements of its characters and the director’s expressionistic use of trademark noir tropes—smoke, rain, shadows, pointed structural angles—creating a mood of desperation, moral decay, and diabolical secrets lurking in dark alleyways, even as its myriad sci-fi influences (including, among others, Metropolis, Blade Runner, Dark City, Minority Report, Ghost in the Shell, and PC masterpiece Half-Life 2) remain quite blatant. Renaissance‘s visual juxtapositions between the real/tangible (grimy city streets, the Eiffel Tower) and the unreal/insubstantial (holographic displays, invisible assassins), however, aren’t accompanied by a complementary narrative, the superfluous story—about a detective named Karas (voiced by Daniel Craig) whom, while searching for a kidnapped researcher, uncovers a conspiracy involving identity theft, genetic experimentation and corporate villainy—so muddled that it becomes a pesky distraction from the proceedings’ graphical virtuosity. Issues of self and mortality eventually turn out to be the cornerstones of Matthieu Delaporte, Alexandre De La Patelliere, Patrick Raynal, and Jean-Bernard Pouy’s script, but Volckman’s marriage of form and content is cursory at best, his thematic concerns with man’s desire for dominion over nature rarely reflected—save for the director’s own omnipotent control over his malleable animated world—in his evocative mise-en-scène. More problematic, though, is that for all its talk about immortality, the film’s hardboiled human drama—weighted down by inert voicework and two-bit cynicism—is distinctly lifeless.
- Miramax Films
- 105 min
- Christian Volckman
- Matthieu Delaporte, Alexandre De La Patelliere, Patrick Raynal, Jean-Bernard Pouy
- Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Romola Garai, Jonathan Pryce, Ian Holm
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