Renaissance

Barthélémy Karas, as voiced by Daniel Craig, in the Anglophone version of Renaissance

 

 

 

Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack and Jonathan Pryce? That’s quite a cast and it’s just for starters. And for a French anime-style sci-fi too, the “French” bit being the clue that the names are actually here to revoice Gallic product for Anglophone consumption. What they’re lending their voices to looks interesting though, a futuristic story about a kidnapped geneticist (Garai) who turns out to have the key to immortality. The USP of Renaissance is its look – the actors have all been motion-captured, then converted to the harshest black and white renditions of themselves.

This is unusual though hardly revolutionary: as a technique it can be traced back to Walt Disney’s Snow White, at least, and that was the 1930s. But whereas Disney used motion capture to render colour, nuance, shadow, movement, director Christian Volckman’s decision to go chiaroscuro robs his film of visual subtlety, background detail and even deprives the film of the expression on the actors’ faces – which is about 90 per cent of the reason for booking them in the first place, surely (this is not the place to discuss the hiring of “names” as voice talent in modern Disney productions, apart from to say it’s dubious).

I’m not denying the initial power of this visual look – for its opening sequences, up on the big screen, it is breathtaking to look at, to gaze upon, as Sin City was. But, as with Sin City, the look soon starts to feel like a gimmick. As for the screenplay – it is as flat as Tuesday in February, a collection of tough-guy clichés wrapped around a handful of scenes of gunplay, carplay, even foreplay (don’t get too excited). The idea is a graphic novel treatment of a film noir idea, Volckman and crew having made the mistake of thinking that noir – visually, morally – is all about the black and white whereas the good ones at least are really much more interested in what lies between.

 

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

Renaissance – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

The Last of the Blonde Bombshells

Judi Dench and Ian Holm

 

 

Fans of Eighties cult 1980s UK TV series The Beiderbecke Affair will know immediately what’s going on here. This ostensible “let’s put the band back together” drama is really just another opportunity for Alan Plater to resurrect the male/female comedy double act he brought to perfection back then with James Bolam and Barbara Flynn. Judi Dench and Ian Holm play the duelling duo this time out, she being the youngest member of a wartime “all-women” swing outfit, he being the drummer who had to cross-dress to keep the fiction alive. Sly old Plater also gets to indulge two other big passions. First, music of a jazzy, swingy sort – Basie and Ellington figure prominently. Second, slaughtering a sacred cow. Here he’s engaging with the boomer notion that sex began in 1963. Look, he says, forget The Beatles, Chuck Berry etc, the sexual big bang that rock’n’roll supposedly delivered actually happened in Britain during the second world war – when the national crisis trumped petty morality, the “hell, we could all be dead tomorrow” attitude wrote the licence and the blackout supplied the opportunity. It was, according to Plater’s screenplay, a sex and booze frenzy. Further joys of this bijou TV movie include getting to see actors doing things they aren’t associated with – Olympia Dukakis playing a trumpet. And Leslie Caron (yes, An American in Paris Leslie Caron) playing the bass. Grandma will love it, but broad church entertainment is what Plater’s all about, so there’s a good chance that the grandkids might too.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

The Last of the Blonde Bombshells – at Amazon