×

Film Review: ‘Ruben Brandt, Collector’

Milorad Krstić targets adults with this stylish, fast-paced, English-language animated thriller set in the world of fine art.

Director:
Milorad Krstić
With:
Iván Kamarás, Csaba “Kor” Márton, Gabriella Hámori, Katalin Dombi, Matt Devere, Henry Grant, Christian Nielson Buckhold, Butch Engle. (English dialogue)

1 hour 34 minutes

“Possess your problems to conquer them.” That’s the credo psychotherapist Ruben Brandt preaches to his criminally-inclined clients in this  stylish, fast-paced, English-language animated thriller for adults. But when Brandt’s patients help him to apply his own advice, he becomes “Ruben Brandt, Collector,” ringleader of a gang responsible for the theft of 13 of the world’s most famous paintings. In this entertaining romp, his fiction feature debut, multi-hyphenate Milorad Krstić literally puts the ”art” in “arthouse,” using 2D and 3D animation techniques to depict the tropes of film noir and action-adventure, all the while paying clever homage to the worlds of film and fine art. Further festival play is a given, with niche distribution a solid bet for most territories.

Brandt (Iván Kamarás) is the offspring of an East German émigré whose knowledge of subliminal programming with 16mm film was exploited by the CIA — and used to experiment on his own son. Since the recent death of his father, Brandt is troubled by powerful auditory and tactile hallucinations in which characters from famous paintings attack him. For example, in one nightmare, the Infanta Margarita Teresa from Diego Velázquez’s masterwork sinks her sharp teeth into his arm; in another, Sandro Botticelli’s Venus uses her long, golden tresses to pull him to the depths of the sea.

Clearly, poor Brandt needs help — and who better to provide it than his grateful patients, a genial group of recuperating ne’er-do-wells led by the wily kleptomaniac Mimi (Gabriella Hámori), who combines the acrobatic skill of Fantomas with the seductive persona of a modern-day Marlene Dietrich? Also pitching in is Bye-Bye Joe (Matt Devere), a brawny, overly loquacious, celebrity bodyguard; Fernando (Christian Niels Buckholdt), a computer whiz who can’t resist leaving his signature tag every time he accomplishes a security breech; and Membrano Bruno (Henry Grant), a rotund bank robber.

Soon, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Tate, the Uffizi, the Hermitage, New York’s MoMA, and Chicago’s Art Institute all lose some of their most prestigious holdings. As the reward for the recovery of the missing pictures rises to a cool million, handsome, hard-boiled detective Mike Kowalski (Csaba “Kor” Márton) battles mobster Vincenzo (Butch Engle) and his sinister henchman to be the first to discover the identity of the man whom the press dubs “The Collector.”

But Kowalski, a collector himself (his aggregation of unusual movie memorabilia will amuse film buffs), has more in common with Brandt than he realizes. Part of the film’s fun is the eventual solving of Kowalski’s identity.

Slovenia-born, Budapest-based helmer Krstić is a painter and multimedia artist. His first short animation, “My Baby Left Me,” nabbed a Silver Bear at the 1995 Berlinale. His encyclopedic knowledge of art history and love for world cinema shines through every frame of the hand-drawn film. Close viewing yields numerous references, from Dalí to de Chirico, Eisenstein to Hitchcock (the suspense master’s iconic profile shows up in some unexpected places), and Elvis (à la Warhol) to Rocky. Most of the characters sport faces that would be right at home in Picasso’s cubist period and even the title character’s name references Rubens and Rembrandt.

While Krstić is especially good at providing noir atmosphere (jazzy, smoke-filled dives, ominous shadows, and references to Mike Hammer films), he positively excels at high-octane action. The film opens with a near-10-minute chase through the streets and across the buildings of Paris that spills onto the boats of the Seine. Later, a breathtaking getaway sequence on the motorway is choc-a-bloc with movie references. Finally, an ingeniously choreographed session of performance art not only sends up some of that genre’s excesses, but attains the frenetic grace of a soccer game or display of martial art.

An evocative score by Tibor Cari, spiced with selections from classical recordings and hipster versions of cult classics, perfectly suits the action. The version screened in Locarno is the international version. A version with Hungarian dialogue will open domestically on Nov. 15.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Ruben Brandt, Collector'

Reviewed online, London, Aug. 9, 2018. (In Locarno, Sarajevo film festivals.) Running time: 94 MIN.

Production: (Animated — Hungary) A Hungarian National Film Fund production, with support from the Hungarian Film Incentive. (Int'l sales: Hungarian National Film Fund, Budapest.) Producers: Péter Miskolczi, János Kurdy-Fehér, Milorad Krstić, Hermina Roczkov, Radmila Roczkov.

Crew: Director: Milorad Krstić. Screenplay: Krstić, Radmila Roczkov. Camera, (widescreen, HD). Animation: Milorad Krstić, Marcell László. Editors: Krstić, László, Danijel Daka Milošević, László Wimmer. Music: Tibor Cári.

With: Iván Kamarás, Csaba “Kor” Márton, Gabriella Hámori, Katalin Dombi, Matt Devere, Henry Grant, Christian Nielson Buckhold, Butch Engle. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content