05 avril 2006

Renaissance (2006/Volkman)

Renaissance (2006/Christian Volkman/France) +++

Opening Sequence: Two teenagers are locked in a prison cell, steps resonate in the distance. Cross-cut between the corridors where a guard patrols and the cell where the kids try to escape by the broken window. Only one kid can get away before the guard opens the door. Enigmatic scene setting the climate of heroic crime (from the perspective of children) and cold authorities (jailhouse and cold guardians)
Cut to a hostage crisis on stale, the action team cannot storm the building, or they will execute the prisonner. Karas recklessly walks in unarmed, and manages to kill them with one of their weapon.

Here is an animated picture for purist fans of graphic novels, truly made in the spirit of panel composition, frame-to-frame ellipsis, graphical stylisation and expressionist ink filling. Exclusively black and white, the image is epured, white highlights against night background or black lines in an overexposed whitewashed environment. No gradients. Plain grey only used to distinguish glass reflection, computer screens or holographic ads. Punctual addition of CGI smoke (cigarette and sauna steam), maybe the only overdone detail betraying the traditional graphism.
The animation technique is revolutionary. Most sequences are acted by stunts in studio with motion capture sensors, and inserted in a 3D set, although they are entirely traced over and ink painted. The Black/White contrast cast simplified expressionist shadows on complex moving volumes restore a dynamic realism to the binary graphism. Making the most of both worlds, the real-time perspectives of 3D and the stylish touch of 2D drawings.
There is a surprise use of color in one plan, arguably justified, which I'm not sure was necessary. The all black & white concept works brilliantly all along. The soundtrack is also a let down.
Paris 2054, the city is under control of a sophisticated surveillance system to prevent crimes. Illona is kidnapped, a 22 yold genius scientist working for Avalon, a huge pharmacetical corporation, and Karas, a reckless supercop, investigates the case. Renaissance is a protocol researching a cure for progeria, a rare accelerating aging disease, secretly influenced by corruption, and Illona is caught in the midst of a global conspiracy. The historical architecture of Paris in 50 years is intact, the megapole has grown underneath supported by cyclopean metalwork columns giving an Eiffel tower style to every street. Wealthy penthouses extended in rooftop greenhouses. People use mobile phone implants, e-call, worn as a sticker in the neck.
The script can be a little conventional, obviously inspired by Akira (the secret genetic experiments on the progeria children), Blade Runner's neo-noir style (dark city with speaking luminescent billboards and hovering copters, Methuselah’s syndroma of Sebastian = progeria), Enki Bilal's anticipation (retro-futuristic underground Paris), and various manga (invisible gears, stylish guns and cars). Despite all this borrowing homage, the film stays genuinely original, with an ensemble of multi-faced characters confusing the plot resolution delightfuly until the end.

This is the kind of experiment I like to see when it comes to utilize CGI capabilities and special FX in animation. Unlike most recent 3D-hyperrealism animation creating crispier-than-life images that look so artificial because of the sophistication of reflects and textures, Renaissance develops powerful shots like a live storyboard without forgetting the artist imprint in the design.

(s) + (w) + (m) +++ (i) +++ (c) ++++

Check out the beautifully designed website for trailers and more info (french). Trailers.

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