Immortel (ad vitam) (2004)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Immortel (ad vitam)</strong> (2004)

(On DVD, August 2010) I’m usually the first one to complain when a film’s visuals take over its story, but I can sure make an exception when it comes to Immortel (ad vitam), an eye-popping French Science-Fiction movie that teases as much as it satisfies.  The first few sequences sets the tone, with Egyptian gods discussing philosophy in a pyramid hanging over 2095 New York.  A blue-haired woman, an escaped cryogenic prisoner and a bizarre mixture of mutants and aliens quickly follow, setting up a visually dense film that nonetheless manages to tell a story in-between divine possession, political intrigue, dystopian exploitation and a dash of eroticism.  But never mind the adequate story, since the plentiful visual effects thoroughly dominate Immortel.  The film, largely shot against green screen, incorporates digital sets with CGI characters and real-life human actors.  The effect is strange and wonderful even when the quality of the animation doesn’t quite reach beyond the uncanny valley.  The number of quirky background inventions is impressive, and they’re thankfully not all explained as soon as they are introduced: as a result, Immortel feels more alive than countless other SF films.  The quirky dialogue isn’t without its charms either, most of the highlights taking place in conversation between the human hero of the story and his possessor Horus.  In the end, it’s this delightfully weird sensibility, adapted by co-writer/director Enki Bilal from his own graphic novels, which makes the film work even when it shouldn’t: if nothing else, it’s another eloquent proof that French SF cinema tends to be quite a bit more visually adventurous than its US counterparts.  Any serious media-SF fan should make an effort to track down this one.

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