Archive for the ‘Animated’ Category

More Like Interstella 3.5

Posted: May 29, 2011 in Animated

“It’s basically an animated, feature-length music video.”  This is all the information I had going into Interstella 5555, and I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t entirely thrilled about having to sit through it.  As it turned out, I had nothing to fear; Interstella 5555 definitely isn’t for everybody, but the interesting concept backed by a solid soundtrack makes it worth at least one viewing.

French House/Electronic duo Daft Punk use their album Discovery to narrate and guide the film’s plot.  There’s not a single word of dialogue in the entire sixty minutes, and sounds effects are scarcely utilized.  The plot follows a band of blue rock-star aliens as they’re kidnapped and brought to Earth.  Upon their arrival, these space Smurfs are painted white and brainwashed into believing they’re human.  Their manager, the villain of the film and the man responsible for kidnapping them, uses their extraterrestrial musicianship to produce a number one hit.  Meanwhile, back in outer space, a superfan and special forces operative begins his quest to deliver the band back to their home planet.

Chanel's new advertising campaign is really aggressive!

If you’re not already a fan of Daft Punk or anime, Interstella 5555 probably won’t make a convert of you.  A lot of the tropes of anime are present: the crazy hair, loads of melodrama (even without dialogue, this is pretty apparent), etc.  The animation is average, lacking the detailed elegance of movies like the older Akira and Princess Monoke.  It’s easy to forgive these small flaws however, as the music is really the movie’s backbone.

Discovery is arguably Daft Punk’s best album, and it’s put to great use here.  Lyrics, when they’re present, take a backseat to songs’ instrumentals, so the tone of Interstella is generally dictated by the harmony or discordance, heaviness or lightness, of the song currently playing.  It’s very effective, and the tone of a scene mostly matches that of the music.  There are a few instances though, where things don’t quite mesh.  The biggest offender here is Veridis Quo,” a relaxed, slightly classical-sounding piece which begins to play right as the intense final act of the film begins.  I also felt that there were some missed opportunities in terms of editing.  It would have been nice to see more cuts made, more actions performed, in relation to the beats of the music.  There are a few, but I felt if a greater effort had been made in this area, a more even flow could have been established and maintained.

It’s truly impressive that so much can be communicated and that an entire plot can be constructed and delivered without a single word being uttered.  There may be one or two points that are a little unclear (the manager’s plan for world domination, for one), but everything else is clearly presented and expertly constructed.  There are three acts, each with its own beginning and ending, and each escalating until the climax in the last twenty minutes.

Interstella 5555 is a unique film, built around a unique concept.  It’s certainly not perfect, but there isn’t much else like it.  You might hate it, but try giving it a chance – it’s worth it.

Stars: ***1/2

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Best Songs: “One More Time” and “Crescendolls”

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Recommended Viewing: Akira

 

Next Weekend

Movie #8

 

French director Christian Volckman’s first (and only) feature-length film Renaissance was released in 2006, hot on the heels of another highly-stylized, noir-inspired movie – Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City.  Comparisons between the two may have been inevitable, and though Sin City’s production, direction, and writing are more skillfully executed, Renaissance is deserving of (slightly) more praise than it generally receives.

Set in Paris in the year 2054, the plot begins with the kidnapping of Ilona Tasuiev, a promising young researcher at the pharmaceutical company Avalon.  The ensuing investigation, led by reticent police captain Barthélémy Karas, exposes Avalon’s darkest secret.  Now, pursued by big pharma security forces, Karas and Ilona’s sister Bislane race to find the kidnapper before it’s too late.

If the story seems a bit trite and uninspired, that’s because it is. Anyone who is even remotely interested in film will have seen these same basic plot elements in dozens of other movies, and, for the most part, Renaissance doesn’t introduce anything fresh or exciting. The movie drags for the first forty minutes while it introduces the players and sets into place plot-points for the final payoff. The characters are stereo-typical and underdeveloped; rarely do we see the characters existing outside of their primary objectives, and as a result, it’s often difficult to identify with them or invest one’s self in their plights.

Karas and Bislane are getting ready to “ani-mate.”

So far, I’ve given a less-than-swimming endorsement of film, but there’s actually a lot to appreciate in Renaissance.  Most notably, and most noticeable, is the animation.  Volckman uses rotoscoping (a technique in which a live-action film is traced, frame by frame, by animators) to great effect.  The movie is devoid of color, and this absence emphasizes the contrast between the blacks and whites. The shadows are overbearing, almost imprisoning (doesn’t the sun ever rise?); even the characters can never break entirely free from them. This is not a tourist’s Paris. It’s a bleak depiction of a once beautiful city turned into a corporate dystopia.  As gorgeous as the visual style is, it occasionally detracts from the experience.  The excessive use of shadows can be distracting (as my girlfriend noted) and the rotoscoping can’t quite capture the nuances of actors’ expressions and body language, giving even the good performances a slightly stilted feel.

The second half of the movie is an improvement over the first, as the groundwork that was laid in the lack-luster first half finally comes to fruition.  The action picks up, the relationship between Karas and Bislane is given a little more attention, and the final fifteen minutes are full of twists that mostly make up for Renaissance’s other faults.

The director and screenwriters had some good ideas, but they were simply not able to make the most of them and the result is a decent, but ultimately uneven, movie.

Stars: ***

Best Quotes:

Karas: I don’t know anything about saints, but I have an uncanny instinct for sniffing out a son of a bitch.

Muller: Without death, life is meaningless.

Recommended Viewing: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, District B13

Sunday, May 1

Movie #4