Critic’s Choice: Films on TV this Week

November 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

RENAISSANCE– Saturday, 10.50pm, FilmFour Alert Me

Paris, the year 2054 – Karas, ‘un célèbre capitaine de police’, sets out to find missing scientist Ilona, cop off with her sister, and save the world. In a rather knowing piece of casting, James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, voices the main character of this stylish French animated film. Sitting (quite possibly on a barstool) between A Scanner Darkly and Sin City in the visual stakes, Renaissance is gorgeous. Super hot. It’ll seduce you, with its stark black and white, contrasty charms, and then leave you wondering  ‘would I still be with you, Renaissance, if you weren’t so goddamn pretty?’

Appropriately, the film’s plot concerns a conspiracy stemming from an omnipresent beauty company. There are clear nods to Blade Runner and Minority Report, but unlike those films, Renaissance’s hazy plotting tends to evoke a mate’s tipsy mumblings – you get the main gist of the story, but, what was that bit about your uncle and… the doctor… who, umm… ? This isn’t to say that Renaissance can’t be tremendous fun, though. The plot may trundle on, but it is nicely loaded with action scenes – one car chase standing out in particular. The Metropolis of Paris is also a wonderful feature – beautiful, dangerous and inventively-updated, right down to the Citroens and flashy ID cards: detailed and intelligent sci-fi touches abound.

The problem is that the characters never quite raise themselves to the level of the world and the visuals, wallowing in familiar noir and cop clichés. The ‘maverick cop’ tune has been played to death, and with much more verve than is on display here: Karas could probably kick Dirty Harry’s ass, but you still wouldn’t give two hoots about him. Renaissance remains highly watchable, though, for the truly ingenious visuals if nothing else. And terrifyingly, the film also raises the somewhat feasible prospect of invisible, hi-tech, gun-toting French hoodies. Remind me to avoid Paris in 2054.

BLACK NARCISSUS – Sunday, 3pm, FilmFour Alert Me

This is a film about the repressed desires of nuns. No, it’s not porn. It’s set high in the Himalayas, but was filmed in a grimy, postwar London studio. Still with me? Good – because Black Narcissus is a classic. Written and directed by the wonderful team of Powell and Pressburger (big favourites in the Scorsese household), it is a sumptuous, sensual movie, full of colour and exotic life – bolstered by stunning, Oscar-winning photography, and a great performance by the late Deborah Kerr (aka. her-who-rolled-around-snogging-on-the-beach). Controversial back in its day, Black Narcissus may seem tame to modern audiences, but the subtle erotic tension keeps the film sizzling along nicely. At points, it’s hard to believe that this is, in fact, a British film – weren’t we supposed to be cold, stiff-upper-lipped and blue-blooded back in the 1940s?

BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE – Wednesday, 11pm, ITV2/Thursday, 8pm, ITV2 Alert Me

Strange things are, indeed, afoot at the Circle-K: join Bill and Ted as they journey through time in a metaphysical phonebox, kidnap serious historical dudes and score some bodacious mediaeval English babes, all in order to pass their history class and avoid flunking most heinously out of high school: the fate of humanity itself rests on their teenage, slacker, shoulders! Keanu Reeves has never been better, and, perhaps, neither has cinema itself. Most excellent! [guitar solo]

By Rob Pearson