"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.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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