Film (2006; vt Paris 2054: Renaissance). Miramax Films presents an Onyx Films and Millimages production in association with France 2 Cinéma, Luxanimation and Timefirm Limited with the participation of Allied Filmmakers, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Film Fund Luxembourg, MEDIA Plus, ON Animation Studios and Région Ile-de-France. Directed by Christian Volckman. Written by Mathieu Delaporte, Alexandre de la Patellière, Jean-Bernard Pouy and Patrick Raynal. English-language cast includes Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Kevork Malikyan, Catherine McCormack, Jonathan Pryce and Leslie Woodhall. Colour. 105 minutes.
The kidnapping of a Scientist reveals a conspiracy to own the secret of Immortality.
Few subgenres of sf would seem to suit mainstream computer-animation more than Cyberpunk. Cities ravaged by the Ruins and Futurity of corporate Dystopia lend themselves to painterly composition, questions of Identity and human motive are easily affixed to the familiar Clichés of the Crime and Punishment procedural and the popular (if not always commercial) success of Cinema at the intersection of Anime and film noir makes financing similar projects feasible.
Disney's investment in Renaissance, also distributed under the name Paris 2054: Renaissance, was the first time the company had pre-purchased a French animated film purely on the basis of a pilot and a script, and the level of its outlay – around 30% of an overall budget of €14 million – attracted further financing, including $3 million through Bob Weinstein at Miramax Films, and the technical support of IBM and other companies interested in the commercial opportunities of a film shot, framed and edited in two-tone black and white using only motion capture to animate its characters. Director Christian Volckman's short film Maaz (1999) had foreshadowed the possibilities of hand-painting a film with real actors frame-by-frame at a time when neither The Polar Express (2004), directed by Robert Zemeckis, nor A Scanner Darkly (2006), adapted from A Scanner Darkly (1977) by Philip K Dick using digital rotoscoping technology, had entered production.
It is, perhaps, small surprise that a film more concerned with its medium than its message did not capture the imaginations of film audiences and the result achieves neither the hard-bitten edge of Sin City (2005), co-written and co-directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, nor the new-wave sensibility of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965). A by-the-numbers screenplay delivers some decidedly basic Psychology – people are motivated by family relationships, connections from childhood, romantic liaisons conducted on a transactional basis – and the two-tone aesthetic tends to obscure the faces of the characters, despite some good voice work from the English-language cast, particularly Catherine McCormack as Bislane. A Near Future Paris decorated by future-modernist glass arcades and bridges – the Pyramide du Louvre by Chinese-American architect I M Pei seems to serve as inspiration – is visually alluring, but serves merely as backdrop. The result is more pictorial than cinematic and more often than not fails to connect feeling to action.
As conducive a means as cyberpunk may be for relaying the signs and symbols of Postmodernism and SF as the focus of Satire about our increasingly-saturated Media Landscape – there can be few better sets of story-protocols from the SF Megatext for dramatizing the Economics of a world owned by the few to the benefit of none – it is all too easy to forget the connection between Conceptual Breakthrough and mortal truth by which the form tends to deliver its emotional payload. What Blade Runner (1982) did for widespread recognition of sf's facility for connecting Inner Space to a Sense of Wonder, Akira (1988) did for the Manga-inflected consciousness of street-gangs, Psi Powers and the use of Children in SF for clandestine research: the visual allure of those films is the first part, rather than the whole, of their attraction and (as with film noir) their protagonists must confront the existential implications of the societies they inhabit. The Technology of constructed Memory means something to the characters of Blade Runner 2049 (2017); the same might be said of many of the characters that appear in the works of William Gibson or Pat Cadigan. Human truths enliven the paucity of the denatured landscapes through which they move.
Renaissance does a fairly efficient job of arranging a series of plot-points about a long-hidden research project into the connection between progeria (a genetic disorder in which symptoms similar to aging manifest in people of a young age) and the Genetic Engineering of Rejuvenation and eternal life on the part of the all-powerful Avalon corporation, but fails to translate its narrative of convenience into a meaningful story. It is, nonetheless, a film with an unusual aesthetic, and one which serves as an interesting footnote to Disney's eventual domination of the cinema of the fantastic through its purchases of Pixar Animation Studios, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars franchise. [MD]