Thursday, August 14, 2008

"First we find her. Then, we sleep."

I was planning on seeing Tropic Thunder on its opening night. Didn’t happen. Ended up watching a 2006 film called “Renaissance.” Now, some context may be necessary. I’d heard about the movie back when it came out in limited release, and thought: “sounds cool, I should check it out” before it dropped under my radar. Fast forward to last year when I was looking for Christmas gifts for cinema-loving buddies at Target. On the shelf was Renaissance. Long, boring story short, I was at one of said buddies’ houses and we decided to crack that baby open and throw it in.

It’s a French film (dubbed into English quite well by noted actors like Daniel Craig and Ian Holm) and set in Paris in the year 2054 (sadly no flying cars and ray guns but there is a really cool Citroen). But that’s just the stage for the movie.

This movie is a hard-boiled detective Noir film about a cop trying to solve a kidnapping. In the future. That’s what it is, and my God does it work. The first thing you’ll notice about the film is that its in glorious Black & White. There are no grays. Its black and white. That’s the first thing. The second thing you notice is that its completely animated. Sure, all the movements are done in motion capture, but its 100% CG. This is not a bad thing. The stark and stylized nature of the film completely draws you in, covering up the computer generated nature of it. There’s only a few moments where the graphics seem off; hair doesn’t move quite right, the eyes look a little out of place occasionally. Those are entirely minor quibbles that don’t break the spell of the movie. It is a technical achievement.

Storywise, its Noir through and through. Captain Karas, the hero, is a badass cop with a dark past. There’s the usual seedy characters, the seemingly clean characters who are just as seedy, and the beautiful woman who gets involved with the hero. I don’t want to tell you much about it since the whole point of Noir is the twists that go along the way. Suffice it to say, if you know anything about characters like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, then you know that these stories always get messy.

I suppose the comparison to Sin City is in order. Yes, they’re both black & white. Yes they’re both soaked in a seedy underbelly. I’d venture to say that Sin City is more like a bullet and LSD soaked version of Dick Tracy. Everyone there’s a caricature, everything is over the top. It feels, despite using real actors in makeup, completely cartoony. Renaissance doesn’t let the bullets fly like snowflakes in a blizzard. Its got action and car chases, but at its root, it’s a thriller with small doses of philosophy thrown in. Its less cartoony despite being completely animated. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Sin City a lot, but it’s a big happy fun-time mindless action movie most of the time while Renaissance is just better movie with visuals and plot dancing merrily hand-in-hand down the gritty sewers of Paris. Ultimately I suppose it comes down to understanding the difference between a Bruce Willis movie (which Sin City is. I mean, he’s in it) and a Steve McQueen movie. Both action stars, but there’s a huge difference.

Penultimately, I think Renaissance shouldn’t be compared to Sin City. It seems to fit somewhere in between Blade Runner and the Ghost In The Shell series while resurrecting the spirit of old pulp cinema. That’s not a bad place to be. Ultimately, you should be there too.

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