Cyberpunk Review » Renaissance

January 26, 2007


Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2006

Directed by: Christian Volckman

Written by: Alexandre de La Patellière, Mathieu Delaporte, et al.

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Rating: 8 out of 10


Renaissance Screen Capture


Overview – Good luck in finding a copy! Once upon a time, Renaissance was one of my most anticipated movies of 2006. Originally released in France on March 15th, I eagerly awaited its September release in the US. My anticipation was heightened in that I was even contacted by Miramax representatives as part of a pre-hype blitz. So imagine my surprise when its release in the US only comprised a few select cities – unfortunately my city didn’t make the cut (thanks Miramax!). Similar to so many other good, but foreign science fiction and fantasy flicks, instead of getting a nice theatrical viewing, I was yet again forced wait and then later buy an import (or pirated – sometimes you just aren’t sure) DVD off of eBay. If you are in the US and are interested in seeing Renaissance, chances are you’re in the same boat. One would have hoped that a movie as visually stunning as Renaissance would have been at least able to quality for a DVD release, but clearly something larger is going on here as many other foreign genre films are in the same boat.


Renaissance Screen Capture


The Setting: In the year 2054, mega-corporations are all-powerful, with tentacles in all aspects of life. The divisions between rich (megacorps) and poor are greater than ever. Paris has grown in layers, with high-tech buildings pushing every further into the sky. Although the city is sleek and stylish, most people live a pathetic existence. In Paris, the Avalon Corporation rules the cityscapes. The police force is not immune from their pressures, and often become their lackeys.


Renaissance Screen Capture


The Story: When a promising young biogeneticist named Ilona (voiced by Romala Garai) from the Avalon Corporation is kidnapped, detective Barthélémy Karas (Daniel Craig) and his team are brought in to investigate. As Karas interviews all the key players, it becomes clear that this isn’t a simple missing person case, as the details of the disappearance become increasingly more bizarre and complicated. The Avalon corporation president, Dellenback (Jonathan Pryce), not known for his loyalty to his workers, is extremely interested in her return. Ilona’s bioengineering mentor has a strange past, and stopped doing research after an accident from 2006. Karas befriends Ilona’s older sister, Bislane (Catherine McCormack), who tells of a stolen book.


Renaissance Screen Capture


Similar to Howard Hawks’ “The Big Sleep” (1946), Karas spirals back and forth between the key players as more clues are provided. Karas uncovers a darker side of the Avalon Corporation, and of Ilona’s mentor, Dellenback. Furthermore, it appears that the secret to immortality has been discovered, and is tied to Ilona herself. As Karas and Bislane continue searching for Ilona, the list of enemies grows. The key players are getting offed, Karas is booted from the force, and is now in fear of his life. Worse, they are discovering that humanity itself may be at risk if Ilona is found.


Renaissance Screen Capture


The Characters: It’s not a stretch to say that virtually every character in Renaissance comes “cookie cutter” from the old noir movies, with a nice slice of traditional cyberpunk thrown in the mix. From the honest but jaded crusty cop with a soft spot to the megalomaniac mega-corporation leader, to the shady friend the cop goes to when he needs a favor to the femme fatale; don’t expect freshness, because it isn’t coming. Like the old noirs, everyone in Renaissance is flawed; everyone is gray – which does make for an interesting contrast when transposed on such stark black and white animation.


Renaissance Screen Capture


The Atmosphere: While the story falls short, the look of Renaissance fully original and is flat-out amazing. If Renaissance is best described as style over substance, the style really comes STRONG to the party. Stark black and whites dominate virtually every shot. Shadows are in abundance, and usually highlight the main action points. Gray is used sparingly, and is usually applied to change the mood of the scene. To its credit, Volckman succeeds at creating a near-future world that is deeply flawed but not overly futuristic. The cityscapes are incredibly detailed, and give the impression that there are always a bevy of interesting happenings occurring. A transparent glass-like substance is now used to make walkways above and below the roads – this more than anything creates a sleek, near-future ambience. The stark black and white look of Renaissance works well both in the daylight and evening shots, both having shadows prominently placed in virtually every frame.


Renaissance Screen Capture


Traditional cyberpunk conventions are often applied, including huge billboards of beautiful women that extol the virtues of the Avalon Corporation. Avalon fills the role of the dominating mega-corporation that owns and controls virtually everything in Paris. Nothing is beyond their grasp. The police are on their payroll, and the entire city appears to be under surveillance. Immortality, derived through advances in bioengineering (initially undertaken by a Japanese scientist) is the dominating technology intended to challenge God’s position over humanity.


Renaissance Screen Capture


Similarities with Sin City: Volckman stated he was interested in creating a visual feel similar to what one might get when looking at a painting. In terms of what was produced, yes, the look is definitely similar, but Renaissance is not copying Sin City. Although Sin City came out first, Renaissance started its production far before Sin City. In terms of look, Renaissance really does match very closely with the Sin City graphic novels – more so than Sin City in fact. But while it also is a neo-noir, the dialogue and mood of Renaissance is far more like a corporate espionage version of a standard 40s detective noir (think “The Big Sleep” with corporations instead of the mob), whereas Sin City had more of a hyper-real, over-the-top neo-noir feel.


Renaissance Screen Capture


The Animation: Using an innovative motion-capture to rotoscope approach, where 24 cameras are used when shooting the actors, Volckman was able to work on the framing and viewpoint well after the shoot was complete, and then paint on the black and white animation. Unlike Linklater’s rotoscoping, where the actors’ faces and body appear to be constantly shifting, the level of precision used in Renaissance is significantly higher. When moving, the sprite’s actions are incredibly human-looking. There is a slight lag though when they first take action – a noticeable lag that’s slower than you would expect a person’s actions to be.


Renaissance Screen Capture


The Technology: While the basic story for Renaissance is straight cyberpunk neo-noir, the technology options provided are numerous and fairly interesting. Most visually arresting was the Holodeck sphere prison where Ilona is kept. Karas had a very advanced cybernetic eye implant that allowed him to identify people through solid objects – it also was able to be hacked by Avalon, the Mega-corporation. Computers are slick, now often just the size of a pen with a virtual display that arises upon command. Biotechnological modifications are in vogue, although not at the level of Ghost in the Shell. Similar to Motoko’s invisibility suit, the goons at Avalon have similar suits, although they look more like the soldiers in Jin-Roh than they do the hawt, naked Motoko. Holograms are now used in combination with pictures to remember people and events – in some cases, holograms interact with their human counterparts.


Renaissance Screen Capture


Do you Want to Live Forever? One thesis of Renaissance is the notion that immortality, if invented, would destroy humanity. Not a lot of backing is provided for this idea, but the idea put forward is that this irrevocable change in the hands of a mega-corporation would provide a method of control so powerful that society would no longer function. This is all the more interesting in that some are predicting that humanity will have the equivalent of immortality within the next 50 years. If this comes to pass, will the possibility of immortality be distributed evenly or will this be a tool of domination similar to in Renaissance?


Renaissance Screen Capture


The Bottom Line: Although the story and characters are not original, the animation and overall cinematography is both innovative and outstanding, and should not be missed. There is truly something unique in the look here that you just won’t find anywhere else. The voice and motion acting are more than passable and Nicholas Dodd’s score provides a wonderful combination of a 007 espionage flick with the haunting eeriness of the score from Stargate. As icing on the cake, the science, technology and architecture exhibited in Renaissance will make you think. It may be hard to find, but it’s well worth the time spent looking for it.


Page 2, More Screencaps–>


~See movies similar to this one~

This post has been filed under Utopia Surrounded by Poverty, Security-Surveillance State, Dystopic Future Movies, 8 Star Movies, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.


January 26, 2007

Nesuphyn said:

Cool, I’m glad it turned out so well. Is there anyway I could get the French release of the DVD?

Vesper said:

My thoughts exactly - the story is so-so, but the art is worth the audience attention.

SFAM said:

Hi Nesuphyn, the motion actors actually were all from different countries so even the French version of this is spoken in English. There is no French language version. That said, it would be nice to have a choice among the language tracks, but unfortunately my version doesn’t have that.

And yeah, Vesper - you buy this more for the art and look than the story. That said though, I sort of LOVE the Big Sleep. It’s kind of fun seeing a cyberpunk movie with the same sort of convoluted plot!

January 27, 2007

SFAM said:

Got the second page of additional screencaps up!

January 28, 2007

Sinfonian said:

Hey there, Im new to this sight, and i have just resently heard of Renaissance. It looks like a fantastic movie. I have been searching for some information such as a Realease date but cant find one. If anyone here knows of anything Please let me know. Thank you and Good day
~ Sinfonian

Case said:

I have to agree quite a bit with this review. There was some backlash right before this came out that it wasn’t so hot…and then it just kinda faded away and you didn’t hear any more about it. Then, just a few weeks ago, I spotted an import copy at my local comic shop and decided to pick it up just for the hell of it…and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best cyberpunk movie since “Ghost in the Shell 2.” The scene where they’re in the “simulated forest” (for lack of a better term) was just excellent…perfect suspense. That ending was fantastic. Big thumbs up from me, all around.

SFAM said:

Hi Sinfonian, sorry to break it to you, but it already had a release here - September 22. Unfortunately, the release only extended to a few select cities. Unless you were in one of those, you didn’t get to see it (based on your IP address location, you weren’t).

Your ONLY option right now is to buy an import DVD of this. Why they hell Miramax goes to the trouble to revoice Renaissance with top-name actors and then not fully release it is beyond me. But again, this trend of shutting out foreign genre movies from the US market is a VERY deep and long trend indeed.

There are few areas where I advocate piracy of intellectual property. But if mass piracy of these flicks (or flooding the market with imports) forces the industry to provide some avenue for movie goers to watch these flicks (be it an actual release OR a legit DVD), then I’d be for it. But honestly, I don’t really understand the dynamics which continually keep these movies out. DVD releases just shouldn’t be that hard to do, especially when its clear that a “real” release isn’t gonna happen. I’d appreciate it if someone could shed some light on this.

SFAM said:

Hi Case, I definitely agree that Renaissance is well worth a watch. It’s sort of amazing that the backlash by regular film critics would stop a movie like this. Genre movies often have a different audience composition, and can often do well even if the majority of the critics hate them (Underworld, for example).

I bought my copy at a great site DVDs outside of region 1… of course you need a region free player.

January 29, 2007

SFAM said:

Hi Neurotica Divine, thanks for the link. It looks like the site you list has a region 2 copy of Renaissance. And BTW, I LOVE the artwork on your website! Great, great stuff!

Sinfonian said:

Hey guys
SFAM, Thanks For the help The other day. I just have one more question if its no truble. Like i said, im kinda new to all this so…
In the last post on Jan 28 it states… I need a Region Free DVD player… how can i tell if mine is region free, and if its not… where can i get one?

Thank you again
~ Sinfonian

Great Websight

SFAM said:

Hi Sinfonian, just to clarify, if you get Renaissance off of Ebay, you can get a “Region 0″ DVD, which means any DVD player can play it (It’s also lots cheaper - I got my copy for 11 bucks). As to where you can get a Region Free DVD player, a lot of websites sell this. Type “Region Free DVD Player” in google. In doing this sear, this link seems to be a decent site for them (although I haven’t bought anything from there so don’t take this as an endorsement).

Neuromancer said:

Great review, SFAM. I wasn’t sure i was going to get this but you convinced me to buy it when it is released februari 22nd. The french version is already for sale here but unfortunately my french is a bit rusty. Sounds like it is worth the wait.
And what do “they” know, right?

Hawt, you do like that word don’t you? Hawt. Hehe.

[…] -from the Wiki article Cyberpunk Review for Renaissance […]

January 31, 2007

Neurotica Divine said:

-SFAM said:
Hi Neurotica Divine, thanks for the link. It looks like the site you list has a region 2 copy of Renaissance. And BTW, I LOVE the artwork on your website! Great, great stuff!-

Yeah that region 2 is pretty nice… good packaging and everything. thanks for the kind words re: my art… I’m trying to redo the site but I’m no code or flash person… and it’s a jungle out there finding an affrdable site designer. I’ll let you know when it’s upgraded.

And thanks again for the Paranoia 1.0 review… after seeing it I keep thinking about it. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll review my cyberpunk feature (once I get it done!)

February 2, 2007

Com Wedge said:


This film suffered from a painfully slow plot and boring visuals. I also anticipated the release of this film only to find that it barely screened in Australia. I found an excellent copy of the film which was originally made in English. This tried to be live action Noir but just ended up being a second rate anime.

Com - 3 Stars if that.

P.S. I like most of your reveiws so far but please rethink the matrix trillogy. The second and third films were poor sequels.

SFAM said:

Hi Com Wedge, if you’ve only had issues with my Renaissance review and the Matrix sequels, considering I have well over 100 reviews here, I’m damn happy with my positive percentage rating!

Seriously though, regarding both the Matrix sequels and the Renaissance movie, the best I can do is give my rationale for why I rated them as I did (I certainly touched on the plot being similar in structure to the Big Sleep). Clearly others will differ, and that’s perfectly fine. In terms of changing my ratings, I do actually do this from time to time based on comments on the review - I think I’ve done so on at least 5 reviews. However, I don’t see this happening either with the Matrix sequels or Renaissance.

Regarding your rating of 3 stars for this flick, compared to the other films I give 3 stars, that would be flat out inconsistent. A 3 star or lower rating implies the director really didn’t even try. Whether you hate it or not, clearly there is originality and effort here. And while the visuals didn’t work for you, they clearly did for me - in spades in fact.

BTW, I LOVE your website! You do a good job of introducing your film shorts. If any of those end up fitting in the cyberpunk genre (Kill the Ranger, perhaps?), I do hope you’ll send me a copy to review!

February 21, 2007

Corvus said:

I found this movie on an import site (that i have gotten a alot of anime from) called for $8.. if anyone is looking for the american region import. site uses paypal. i plan on ordering it myself!

February 23, 2007

M.Christian said:

Got my copy through ebay. No huge hopes, but it at least looks visually stunning. For beauty and brains I always recommend Innocence by Oshii.

SFAM said:

Hi Chris, I couldn’t agree more - this is why I gave Innocence 10 stars. It’s both visually stunning and wonderfully deep. Hope you like Renaissance though - it really is worth a watch.

[…] getting a US release this year (or ever), so I’ll be getting my copy on Ebay, just as I did Renaissance and Immortel (no, US distributors, I’m not planning to wait for your lame asses to get around […]

June 24, 2007

Hissy said:

Just wanted to let you know that you can get this off of netflix, too. I’m really pleasently suprised with their selection. Everytime I’ve wanted to get a cyberpunk movie or any other indie film they’ve had it. Give it a try if you can’t seem to find the movie you want.

July 24, 2007

Marc McKenzie said:

This movie looks absolutely amazing. I managed to watch the trailer on Apple and was blown away by the visuals…that said, I will have to see the film to fully grasp whether it works or not.
…Which might be sooner than I think. It turns out that it is being released this week–in fact, I saw it advertised in Best Buy. Don’t know the details of the disc (ie, special features and such), but the good news is that it appears that Renaissance will finally get a proper American release after all, even if it’s just for home video.

September 17, 2007

Illusive Mind said:

I just watched this. It is such a shame that for such a stunning looking movie, the story falls so short.

March 20, 2008

tehprion said:

I loved the visuals and the ending.

As for availability, my local video store (regional Victoria, Australia) stocks a copy.

March 25, 2008

Synthoid said:

Renaissance strikes me more as biopunk, kind of. With the whole emphasis on progeria.

kbisang said:

there is a french audio track which features the original french actors who performed the mocap for their characters as well. it is included in the miramax reg 1 dvd i own along with the daniel craig headed “english” cast…there is also a small amount of bonus specials about the film though not nearly enough for such a beautiful cyberpunk/sci-noir film…

kbisang said:

i was responding to a post by SFAM originaly without realizing the date of the orig post -jan2007- So while i didnt check im sure my prior post and the little information within have already been brought to light and discussed. if so i apologize for the repetition.

November 10, 2008

Jean-no said:

You’ll easely find it on websites like (a customer to customer marketplace) at about 2 euros, (french’s main dvd seller) at about 3 euros and Amazon for a little bit more money.

June 14, 2009

Mr. Ike said:

Actually, there IS a French version of this movie. A friend of mine actually managed to find a DVD copy of this movie and we watched it in its original French (with subtitles). While the you don’t get Daniel Craig, you DO get dialogue that matches the lips.

June 26, 2010

Phonon said:

I think Renaissance is a very important movie. Even though it is a futuristic detective story, it was clearly influenced by some of the classic novels and films in the genre. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed that, but all the great urban visuals were borrowed from Stephenson and Scott. The scenes where holographic silhouettes reach out for and `hug’ passers-by, and the one where someone (I forget who) walks over a bridge and a woman’s face on a huge advertisement post next to it watches that person as they walk by and many more are all from Stephenson’s Diamond Age. For me, being a huge science and speculative fiction fan, these beautifully recreated visuals were able to project masterpieces of writing onto the animated paradigm. I really think that this is movie is priceless judging by the amount of such visuals it had recreated.

March 7, 2011

SSJKamui said:

I think, the movie is visually amazing. It plays some Cyberpunk tropes a little bit too straight, but has got some interesting story moments.

June 7, 2011

spiralofhope said:

At first I found the visual style to be unwatchable, and I shelved this for a long time. i did get to watching it, and I found it to be pretty good. It’s not as intensely involving to watch as many other movies, but it has its character.

The visual style is cute, but I find it distracting. The style does end up falling away later on and I could watch without discomfort, but there were always parts throughout it which changed or otherwise emphasized the style, and it slapped me in the face again.. shocking me out of my immersion.

A decent movie, but not particularly memorable to me.

July 13, 2011

Matthew Smith said:

Though I really wished I’d seen this in theatres, it appears Alliance Films now has a bare-bones Region 1 Blu-ray release available on Amazon. Might be worth checking out.

Heck, it even looks like they have a Equilibrium/Renaissance double feature on Blu-Ray as well! What a steal that would be if I didn’t already have Equilibrium on Blu-Ray!

August 8, 2011

Kemahudson said:

Surprisingly enough, I found the dvd for this at Target here in Chicago. I hadn’t even heard of the movie and it looked interesting.

I picked it up and forgot I bought it! It’s been sitting on my shelf for a year or so. Then I was reading over the cp reviews on this site and noticed the movie listed. I thought, that sounds familiar… Sure enough, it’s the one I purchased and have yet to watch. ;)

Will be watching it now of course.

Kemahudson said:

Sorry for two in a row.. But I checked and you can order it off as well.

Just go to and search for it.. The DVD is only $4.00!

August 9, 2011

5466-ER said:

hope i can find a good download..
hey ,its the cyberpunk way anyway

June 5, 2012

tigrum said:

This sockshare link is working as of june 2012…it doesn’t seem right to see a link to amazon or a place such as that in a hackers movie list heh. think about it.

tigrum said:

update: i do not agree with the negative reviews, rather with the 8 stars. this story is strong as well as the acting. bonus points for a unique story and cinematography. the closest thing ive seen visually to this is Waking Life or Scanner Darkly except black and white and not trippy. Daniel Craig is the lead and it is set in futuristic Paris… badass.

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