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Laramie Movie Scope:

Animated whodunit, darkly

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 9, 2007 -- “Renaissance” is a science fiction detective story done in an exaggerated film noir style. It's distinctive look comes from motion-capture animation with extreme contrasts. It is a black and white film with few shades of gray. It is either pitch black or glaring white. It is a bit reminiscent of another recent stylistic triumph, “Sin City.” Like the old film noir detective films of the 1940s and 1950s, this one uses extreme contrasts, limited lighting and is based on a mystery story. It has the dark, brooding look of an adult comic book.

The story shares a lot of similarities to another animated film, “A Scanner Darkly” that came out the same year. While the look of the two films are very different, the stories are similar. Both speak of a future in which societies are dominated by corporations which control everything. Both future societies feature corruption, shadowy conspiracies and people struggling to maintain their humanity in harsh conditions.

The story concerns a hard-nosed detective, Barthélémy Karas, who is assigned to locate a kidnapped scientist, Ilona Tasuiev, using “any means necessary,” which, of course, includes beating up informants and shootouts with shadowy bad guys. The story takes place in Paris in 2054. It a labyrinth of alleys and huge buildings, brightly lit, sliced by dark shadows where evil lurks. Dominating everything is a huge, all powerful corporation, Avalon. Avalon's cameras are everywhere, watching everyone, and its cloaked operatives lurk in the shadows, doing Avalon's bidding, including murder, with impunity.

Karas learns that scientists have stumbled upon a discovery that could change the world, and not for better. Tasuiev is right in the middle of everything. Karas must make some hard decisions about the future of mankind and he needs to get to Tasuiev before Avalon does. Also linked to this shattering secret is Tasuiev's sister, Bislane Tasuiev, with whom Karas has an affair. That complicates things considerably.

While the story is not compelling, the style of the film is amazing. There are some wonderful images, including brilliant use of reflections. In one scene, Karas' reflection is tellingly superimposed over that of another character, creating a kind of hybrid face. The drawback of this kind of film is that the character's faces don't have the expressiveness of real faces, but new technology will improve on that. This limitation means the film needs a much stronger story and characterizations to remain compelling and it is lacking in those areas. The original language of this film appears to be French. I saw the version dubbed in English. Perhaps the film is better in its original language, but the English dubbing was very good (Daniel Craig provided the voice for Karas). This film rates a C+, mainly for its strong style.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)