Like the title suggests, Hungarian animator Milorad Krstić’s first feature film “Ruben Brandt, Collector” springs from a collection of inspirations. From Dalí to art deco and Eisenstein to The Pink Panther, the director draws on various forms of visual art to create a beguiling heist film.
Psychotherapist Ruben Brandt (voice of Iván Kamarás) is troubled by bad dreams of famous artworks come life. Warhol’s Double Elvis takes pot shots at him and Botticelli’s Venus becomes a Lovecraftian horror. “My nightmares are getting stronger and stronger,” he says.
Meanwhile a daring cat burglar named Mimi (Gabriella Hámori) is on the run after a daring robbery. Crossing paths with Brandt, she learns of the doctor’s troubles by listening in on his Dictaphone. To help ease his troubled mind Mimi relies on the advice the doctor has often given to others, “Possess your problems to conquer them.” To this end she recruits four of his shadiest patients, all thieves, to steal the thirteen paintings that plague is thoughts. Cue the capers as they raid the Louvre, Tate, Uffizi, Hermitage and Museum of Modern Art. Trouble is, the police put a $100 million price on “the collector’s” head.
“Ruben Brandt, Collector” is so rich with visual imagery it feels like flipping through a thick copy of “Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine.” Even the name Ruben Brandt is a sly reference, culled from the names Rubens and Rembrandt but this isn’t just style over substance, it’s style as substance. It’s a loving pop culture pastiche that is a reverential as it is action packed. There are car chases and heist scenes that owe as much to cubism as they do to William Friedkin.
You’ll want to watch “Ruben Brandt, Collector” more than once just to catch all the references. The imagery will seem familiar—who hasn’t at least glimpsed Picasso’s cubist paintings?—but like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” this movie takes familiar images and tropes and forms them into something fresh and exciting.