Renaissance - 13 WTHR Indianapolis


David Swindle
Grade: D+

Often among cinephiles there's this conception that independent/art/foreign films are somehow better than the usual Hollywood fare.

It's two stereotypes butting heads. Mainstream, Hollywood films are looked down upon as focus-group-tested products under tight studio control. The arthouse films are thought of as rebels. Without the burden of studio financing the director - the artist - can let loose with his inner creativity. She can experiment with new techniques and deliver stories straight from her very soul.

The reality is that many studio pictures are personal films where the artists had plenty of room to exercise their craft. And when it comes to the arthouse films - all too often they fall prey to the same follies of their bigger-budgeted brethren.

In this particular instance the question is the very foundation of film: the screenplay. There are so many films out there - horrible, horrible pictures - that beg the question "Who actually thought this script was good enough to spend millions of dollars and years in making it?"

This question comes to mind in the animated science fiction film "Renaissance," starring Daniel Craig - the new James Bond. "Renaissance" is kind of a science fiction film noir - think "Blade Runner." It's a crime story where you've got your grizzled, anti-social, do-things-his-way detective wandering around a Paris 50 years in the future. And the plot... Well, it's kind of hard to remember. It's a film noir detective story so it twists around you like a python, squeezing the life out of you. But it's OK for noir films to do that - when they're actually interesting stories with fascinating characters. With good film noir you're able to fight the python - put in some effort in following the plot and its mysteries - such that it's a great film experience. Just go check out a ‘40s or ‘50s Humphrey Bogart picture - "The Big Sleep" or "The Maltese Falcon" will do.

So yeah, a woman gets kidnapped and there's a futuristic corporation that's trying to cover something up or it's doing something wrong - I don't know. At that point the python was wrapped around me so tightly that I could only marvel at the neat computer animation as I asphyxiated.

And that's all the film really offers. For almost the entire film the only colors you'll see are black and white - no grays. It's just high contrast black and white. They filmed the characters and the action and then digitally transformed it into animation. Now of course it's easy to understand why they did it, it even makes sense: it's a science fiction film noir. Employ a high contrast black and white color scheme AND make it look futuristic.

It goes back to a point made in my recent "The Science of Sleep Review." Is the gimmick (the unique computer animation) in service of the story or is the story in service of the gimmick? In this film the answer is quite obvious.

In a way it's really quite sad. It's this boring plot with lifeless characters in this ultra-cool world. There are some great stories that could be told there - it just so happens that this isn't one of them. I feel really bad for the director - who spent FIVE YEARS working on the film. So, so sad.

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