Weird Movie Review: Renaissance

Shortly after being introduced to Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, my movie buff friend and I tried looking up some other stuff he’d been in. What we turned up was a film called Renaissance: Paris 1054.

Actually, we must have just found it on the shelf at Blockbuster and decided to give it a whirl. I distinctly remember getting home and being surprised it was an animated movie… but of course we’d have known that if we’d discovered it on IMDB or wherever.

I enjoyed the movie enough to buy a copy off of Amazon, which I immediately loaned to another friend of mine. That was a couple years ago. Two days ago the DVD finally came back to me, and I decided to give it a second viewing.

Knee jerk reaction: if this had been my first viewing, and I were watching it on a rental, I would not be in a hurry to rush out and buy a copy of my very own. Whether this is indicative of how my tastes have changed over the past couple years I couldn’t say.

What I can say is that I’m glad I own a copy of the movie. Renaissance is one of the few films I believe is worth watching simply for the visuals alone.

The plot of the film is… well, it’s a video game plot. It’s set in the near-future — far enough away that holographic IDs are the norm, but not so far that present-day cars and guns are obsolete. It’s framed as a detective story. So-and-so blonde chick has been kidnapped, and it’s up to the dour policeman with a shady past to follow the daisy chain of clues which eventually lead him to crack the case.

If this were a live action movie, it would have been a boring one. If it were a video game it’d be worth playing, but only if the action was good, and only if cutscenes are skippable on your second pass.

The visuals really are the main draw. The entire thing is done in a stark black-and-white noir style, and understand that when I say “black-and-white”, it is exactly what I mean. The only time shades of grey are used anywhere in the film are for objects that are transparent, such as panes of glass or curls of smoke coming off someone’s cigarette. The whole movie looks as though you’re watching it with the contrast on your TV janked all the way up.

I wonder how far in the development of Renaissance they decided to go with this style. You can see a few spots where the animated character models would look really shoddy without the sleek veneer of noir to cover them up. On the other hand, there are a few scenes where the effect is put to perfect use, like streaming raindrops or rotating lights.

And there’s one scene — exactly one scene, that uses color in order to stand out from the rest of the film. That scene ended up being one of the few I remembered from my initial viewing. It had a powerful effect, but only because it stood out so vividly from the rest of the world.

I suppose in the end I enjoyed Renaissance for many of the same reasons I enjoyed Sin City — except Sin City also had some interesting stories to tell. I recommend it, though, if only because there’s no other film I’m aware of that looks quite like it.

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