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Directed by Christian Volckman.
Written by Alexandre de La Patellière and Mathieu Delaporte.
Starring the voices of Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Jonathan Pryce and Ian Holm.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  10/1/06


I stumbled upon the film "Renaissance" a couple of months ago because some of the stills from the film popped up on IMDB, and I immediately penciled the opening of this one into my calendar to make sure I saw it as soon as I could.  It did not disappoint, and all I can think is "why don't more folks know about this flick or want to see it?"

Maybe they do, and I just don't realize it, but for a film that looks as good as this there's really no reason to NOT see the movie.  "Renaissance" is a French film set in the near future about the investigation of a missing bioengineer by Paris's top cop, Captain Karas (voiced by upcoming Bond guy Daniel Craig).  The scientist, a young woman named Ilona (Romola Garai), works for the Avalon Corporation, a firm that has been experimenting with beautification drugs and technologies for the last several years and is obviously concerned about the whereabouts of one of its top scientists.  The case is made more difficult for a number of reasons, such as the fact that Ilona's sister Bislane (Catherine McCormack) might know where Ilona is...and even if she doesn't, she works for Avalon, whose president, Paul Dellenbach (Jonathan Pryce), seems to be particularly shady about what Ilona was really working on.

There's more to it than that, but given the aesthetics of "Renaissance" I'm impressed that the writers decided to make their story as complex as they did.  The strong script made the film that much more fun to watch, because it's the visuals that keep you hooked all the way to the end.  Save for a couple of moments, "Renaissance" is completely done in animated black and white, and the shading techniques combined with what looks like motion-capture technology (but is probably much more advanced than that) makes the film look like the original comic book illustrations of the "Sin City" series.  Bad guys look edgy, gritty, urban, sinister; women are (naturally) drawn with impossible curves and cars look incredibly sleek.  Lighting is obviously key without the use of other colors; snowfall, flashlight-lit rooms and swinging overhead lamps never looked so good.  All of the futuristic technologies presented here seem cooler while being animated; the action scenes of "Renaissance" are brief but effective; the sound is crisp and invigorating.

Add solid voice acting to the film--scoring Craig and Pryce just makes the film super-serious, which works--and you get a very solid film that begs to be seen.  Honestly, I can't tell you how surprised I am that this is flying in under the radar given how good it is, but in reading some reviews after seeing the film I can see where some folks want to label this as an animated "Blade Runner" or a rehash of some things presented in "I, Robot"...but, I think that as a landmark in animation "Renaissance" is worth your hard earned cash.  Check it out; it's probably playing at an independent theater in your area if you live in a major city.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09