Friday, October 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Renaissance": Darkly futuristic film made with high-tech artistry

Seattle Times movie critic

Computers can do many things, but in the case of "Renaissance" they can't quite find a movie that isn't there.

Christian Volckman's black-and-white film, a futuristic would-be noir, has an impressive technical pedigree: It uses live-action-motion capture, 3-D technology and various other state-of-the-art tweakery to create a result that's often artful, and certainly doesn't look like anything else in theaters. Watching the film, though, is an empty experience; lots of shadow and noise, adding up to very little. (This is one of those "um, what?" movies — meaning, that was the question in my head immediately upon its conclusion.)

Movie review2 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Renaissance," with the voices of Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Jonathan Pryce. Directed by Christian Volckman, from a screenplay by Alexandre de la Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte. 105 minutes. Rated R for some violent images, sexuality, nudity and language. Varsity.

Set in 2054 Paris, the story involves a kidnapped young scientist (voiced by Romola Garai), employed by a mysterious, all-encompassing company called Avalon that sells beauty and youth "for a better world." A cop (Daniel Craig) is dispatched to find her, and "Renaissance" becomes a twisty, vaguely "Matrix"-ish tale of espionage, futuristic warning and enigmatic pronouncement. Oh, and car chases, too.

The look of the film resembles an especially arty graphic novel, with faces lurking in half-shadow, characters moving semi-transparently over backdrops and impossibly ink-black nights. Some of the dim, light-flecked scenes of a Paris panorama are lovely, and there's a sequence of a character awakening from unconsciousness that has a genuinely poetic quality, with trees bursting into bloom.

But all of this is in service to a story that would likely have been silly if performed in live action, not to mention overly familiar. The film's visual flourishes can't hide a certain emptiness at its core.

With its technical achievements, "Renaissance" will likely find a loyal audience intrigued by its experiments. But ultimately it left me chilled; it's all cover, no book.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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