Thursday, May 23, 2019

Movie Review: Ruben Brandt, Collector

Ruben Brandt, Collector **** / *****
Directed by: Milorad Krstic.
Written by: Milorad Krstic and Radmila Roczkov.
Starring: Iván Kamarás (Ruben Brandt), Gabriella Hámori (Mimi), Zalán Makranczi (Mike Kowalsky), Csaba Márton (Mike Kowalski), Paul Bellantoni (John Cooper), Matt Devere (Bye-Bye Joe), Katalin Dombi (Marina), Henry Grant (Membrano Bruno), Peter Linka (George), Máté Mészáros (Membrano Bruno), Gábor Nagypál (Bye-Bye Joe), Virginia Proud (Margaret). 
The beautiful animated film Ruben Brandy, Collector contains something amazing to look at in every frame of the film. It is a film enamored with art – and all the characters look like they came out of different paintings, in different styles. It is also enamored with the art of filmmaking – you will see a lot of Alfred Hitchcock in the framing of the shots in the films, and explicit references to the Master of Suspense in other ways – a shadow on the wall, an ice cube shaped like Hitch, etc. As a story, the film is kind of silly, basically just there to string together all these amazing looking sequences, and the characters are paper thin (in one case, literally). But director Milorad Krstic is most interested in the visuals of the film – and how we, as the audience, relates to and processes art.
The title character is a psychologist, whose specialty is “art therapy” – who is currently working with four clients on their various issues, while also dealing with his own art based nightmares. Those nightmares – all of which involve a different famous painting – are threatening to drive him insane. His ever loyal patients decide to repay their debt to him by stealing each of those invaluable pieces of art – if he can possess his demons, perhaps he can overcome them. The other major character is American Mike Kowalsky – a cop of some sort (I think), who grows obsessed with one of Brandt’s client – Mimi – an acrobat and kleptomaniac, who he chases through the streets of Paris in an early, amazing action sequence, after she steals a valuable fan. There are a lot of other characters – various people who want to catch whoever is stealing the paintings, or want to get their hands on Mimi, etc. They really aren’t necessary.
Then again, perhaps they are. Krstic’s primary focus here is the visuals of the film – the character design of all these different characters, who people far more aware of classic paintings will probably be able to understand immediately. And all of these characters look amazing. And they interact with in these amazing environments, and in these amazing action set pieces. Krstic is amazing at shaping visually everything in the frame.
Yes, the plot is silly – and tries to shock you with some twists and turns throughout. You may even argue that some of the tenuous connections he makes between the paintings and the dreams, etc. are stretched too thin. Krstic presents some interesting ideas and themes throughout – about art, about violence, and America’s obsession with guns, but he doesn’t underline them.
What he has done, is craft an amazing looking film. You can either claim his themes are either subtle or non-existent, but you cannot deny that this thing looks amazing – and is another example of how outside of America, lots of artists are using animation in brilliant ways – not just in terms of the visuals, but in terms of its themes and subject matter. Ruben Brandt, Collector kind of came and went rather quickly – it was one of the film eligible for last year’s animated film Oscar, that held back its release to the new year hoping a nomination would boost the box office, and when that didn’t happen, it just kind of vanished. It shouldn’t have – it’s stunning.

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