In 2054, Paris is a labyrinth where all movement is monitored and recorded. Casting a shadow over everything is the city's largest company, Avalon, which insinuates itself into every aspect of contemporary life to sell its primary export, youth and beauty. In this world of stark contrasts and rigid laws, the populace is kept in line and accounted for.
Paris, 2054: a dark motion-captured world of shadows and right angles. Ilona Tasuiev, a brilliant young scientist, is kidnapped, and her employer, Avalon, a major health and beauty corporation, wants her found. Karas, a jaded police captain, is assigned to find her, fast. He seeks help from her sister, Bislane, and they are soon uncovering identify theft, missing files, and hints that something back in 2006 may explain what's going on. Ilona's mentor, Avalon's vice president, a Japanese researcher, an underworld boss, and Bislane's drug connection all figure in the mix. So does an attraction between Karas and Bislane. What's behind the kidnapping? Who's the victim?Written by
The movie is set in 2054, this is shown at the beginning, where the date "Oct 12 2054" is given in the Avalon advertisement. Throughout the movie, Ilona is said to be 22 years old, so she should be born around 2034. However, when she is abducted in the beginning, her passport is falling to the ground and her date of birth is visible as "24/06/2020". So either the movie plays in 2042 or the d.o.b. in her passport is wrong. See more »
I like being beautiful. I like to stay fit. That's why I like Avalon. With Avalon, I know I'm beautiful. And I'm going to stay that way.
Avalon. For a better world.
Health. Beauty. Longevity. Avalon. We're on your side. For life.
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One reason Pixar has endured so well, and been so successful, is that while their films remain technical marvels and visual mosaics, they have a story to match their style. And often very moving style at that: affecting, charming and cross-generational. That a lot Anime (speaking in broad terms) and a great many other animations fail to match their technical virtuosity with real substance is, I think (and I might be wrong) partly because either the makers aren't bothered with character and plot and focus far too much on sound and image, or the sheer effort that goes into making some animations is so enormous, so enervating that they don't have the energy to create a really engaging story.
That same cannot be said of Renaissance. There are flaws in its plot, but I'll get to that later. Those same flaws, however, are not reflected in the visuals - Renaissance is nowt short of stunning. The ultra-high contrast images (sometimes so high-contrast that is nothing but one face or one beam of light visible) and incredible detail are always impressive, always a joy to behold. The futuristic Paris on display is the grim offspring of Blade Runner and Brave New World; dark, murky, quite affluent and even clean, but shrouded in intrigue, corporate malfeasance, obsessed with beauty (capital of the catwalk, after all) and disguising the squalor and neglect of its labyrinthine passages with a veneer of monumental, sophisticated architecture.
It's a compelling environment, not entirely original, but great all the same. The film's much-touted 'motion-capture' technology and incredible attention to human and design minutiae result in images a black-and-white photographer would die for. Not that the detail prevents entertainment, because Christian Volckman crafts some superb action sequences: a hell-for-leather care chase, a couple of gruesome(ly imaginative) murders, several tussles in the dark and a nasty dust-up in a gloomy apartment. The locations are great, too (I want to visit the nightclub). While the central character of Karas is your regular off-the-shelf maverick cop, the other two female characters (who are sisters) are the real motors of the movie. Coming from war-torn Eastern Europe, products of a war, diaspora and a family spat, they're a compelling metaphor for Europe as a whole.
The film is tremendously atmospheric, its dizzying, swooping faux-camera moves and adult tone making for a very engaging experience. However, the plot... It never becomes more interesting than the initial hook, in which indefatigable plod Karas must find Ilona Tasuiev, a drop-dead gorgeous and pioneering scientist, after she's snatched from the street. The sinister corporation Avalon (is ANY corporation ever not sinister?), which she was working for on 'classified', projects are hell-bent on her retrieval, and soon Karas is up to his neck in official reprimands, dead bodies, cigarette-smoke and narrowly-missed bullets, and falling in love with Ilona's sister Bislane (very sympathetically voiced by Catherine McCormack), as he plumbs the depths of the city's sordid underbelly (and his own past).
Text-book noir, in other words, but while I enjoyed the film a lot more than Sin City (to which it bears a passing visual resemblance), the plot and resolution are dull, the theme of immortality being raised but never examined, and the shenanigans of high-rolling Avalon CEO Paul Dellenbach are also dull , undercutting a lot of the dramatic tension. The basic ideas are familiar sci-fi genre materials, and there's a nagging sense that the visuals and atmosphere are disguising the mundane material.
However, the film as a whole is lucid and perfectly coherent, even if some of the scenarios the characters get into occasionally feel like excuses for displays of technical wizardry. But it's the projection of life in Paris circa 2054, the vision of community and creation of another city from the ground up that makes this film something to behold. I may be taking it too seriously, and if that's the case I can at least say that it's superbly made, extremely entertaining (and pretty mature, too), and with an ambiance like no other.
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