Saturday, June 28, 2008

Renaissance: A Review

Just finished watching Renaissance, an excellent cyberpunk film noir done in a brilliant black-and-white rotoscope. I say excellent and brilliant not because of its script but in its execution. Taking a typical film noir story and glossing it in a cyberpunk feel, Renaissance portrays a possible future Paris complete with realistic technology, architecture and philosophical issues. Playing around the edges of the idea of immortality and biotechonology, the movie focuses more on the characters themselves than the setting and technology. One of my pet peeves with most science fiction is its habit of making the setting more important that the plot and the characters. Renaissance fortunately avoids this by playing up the troubled cop meets the femme fatale angle effectively. I'll give you that at times the plot feels somewhat cliqued but those moments are few and expected if only because they've been done so often before that it's hard to avoid them.
Beyond the plot and the character development is the way the movie was filmed. Normally I'm not a fan of rotoscope techniques as they come off as a way to make a movie look interesting in order to disguise its serious flaws. Renaissance lacks those serious flaws even if it does have some minor ones. Thus you are enable to enjoy the visual aspects of the film as much as the plot. The use of nearly complete black-and-white rotoscope intentionally blurs the line between reality and animation. Each sequence has a dream-like quality with points of reality smashed against a constant sureality the lack of color gives the film. Indeed, I would say Renaissance is a truly hyperreal movie as the moments of reality clashing with unreality make reality even more real than the reality we live in. It intentionally pitches you out of your comfort zone and the turns everything on its side. Had the producers and director decided to go with a more typical, color-filled style I think the movie would have suffered to the point of being unwatchable. Yes, the plot does work and the characters are engaging, but without the visual style used Renaissance is not much more than a made-for-TV science fiction tale. This is certainly the kind of film where the visual is just as important as the script and direction. I would highly recommend the film for anyone wanting that Ghost in the Shell feel without needing to actually watch Ghost in the Shell for the hundredth time.