July 23, 2007
Renaissance (2006) is an animated film made in the tradition of Sin City (2005) and A Scanner Darkly (2006). Like the former film, it was initially shot with live actors on a green-screen soundstage and then this footage was animated like the latter film. The result is a striking-looking futuristic world in the Cyberpunk mould.
It is Paris, 2054 and a young female scientist named Ilona Tasuiev (Garai) has been kidnapped. She’s a researcher for Avalon, a powerful corporation that sells the promise of “ageless beauty.” A tough, no-nonsense cop named Captain Karas (Craig) is assigned to find her and wastes no time investigating the case. He finds out that she was working on a top secret project to fight premature aging. For such an important secret, people are, not surprisingly, willing to kill for it. Karas’ investigation takes him to the criminal underworld and the rich, corporate stratosphere. He teams up with Tasuiev’s sister and uncovers a much bigger picture with much more at stake than he initially realized.
The look of Renaissance is classic Cyberpunk: a fusion of high-technology and the grimy, run-down look of the mean city streets – a mix of Mickey Spillane and science fiction. This is one of those rare animated films made for adults with a style that is reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Sin City graphic novels and also looks like it leapt right from the pages of Heavy Metal magazine. The stark use of black and white with no shadings of gray creates a very distinctive look. The attention to detail is also incredible – a vivid, atmospheric world that instantly envelopes you.
Much like the society depicted in Blade Runner (1982), the higher up one goes – both literally and financially – the look becomes cleaner and more futuristic, reflecting the money being spent and the power being wielded, and this is epitomized by sleek, ultra-modern look of Avalon. As Renaissance unspools, the viewer is bombarded with one evocative image after another. For example, a gun battle takes place in a small forest encased in glass on top of a building.
Renaissance wrestles with weighty themes like life and death, wrapping them up in a traditional hard-boiled detective story. Like Blade Runner, it raises one of the basic questions of life: how long do I have to live? Nobody knows for sure and in Renaissance this leads to the discovery of immortality. It’s a holy grail that people are willing to kill for, especially a large corporation like Avalon, but is it really something that humanity should be messing with?
“The Making of Renaissance” examines this French production whose origins lie in a short film made in 1997 that fused animation with live-action footage. Like with A Scanner Darkly, live actors were filmed and then animated. The filmmakers picked Paris because so many SF films they admired were set either in New York City or Tokyo and wanted to try something different. This featurette traces the film’s development from the screenwriting stage to post-production. Not surprisingly, they cite Blade Runner and the crime novels of James Ellroy as the primary influences on Renaissance. This is an excellent look how this film came together including how they transformed the Paris of today into a futuristic one.