Ruben Brandt, Collector
2019, R, 96 min. Directed by Milorad Krstić. Voices by Iván Kamarás, Gabriella Hámori, Zalán Makranczi, Csaba Márton, Paul Bellantoni, Matt Devere, Katalin Dombi, Henry Grant, Peter Linka.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 22, 2019
This astonishing animated feature from first-time Slovenian director Krstić is required viewing for art history majors and anyone else with even a glancing interest in the works of everyone from Warhol to Gauguin, Diego Velázquez to Joan Miró. A surrealist, globe-trotting riff on To Catch a Thief if Cary Grant had been directed not by Hitchcock but by Salvador Dalí (although that unmistakable Hitchcockian profile is here on display, on ice, actually), Ruben Brandt, Collector is a ravishingly passionate piece of art in its own right.
The titular character (voiced by Kamarás) is a psychotherapist engaged in the treatment of a quartet of criminals through the use of – what else? – art therapy. Brandt, however, has his own killer neuroses in the form of 13 of the world’s great masterpieces that are both figuratively and literally trying to kill him. Brandt’s delusions are the result of subliminal programming by the CIA(!), but to say any more about that particular plot point would result in spoilers galore. Suffice to say, Brandt enlists the aid of his felonious friends in a daring art heist that takes them from the Tate to MoMA, to the Louvre and beyond. Acrobatic and sensual cat burglar Mimi (Hámori) leads the gang of four, plus Brandt, on a whirlwind tour through modern psychoanalyses and H.W. Janson’s History of Art while also taking a deep dive into the very notion of what it means to be a collector, all while being pursued by a Chandlerian detective with the unlikely moniker of Kowalski (Márton), who is himself a film lover and connoisseur of all things cinema. To quote Jean-Luc Godard, “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.”
Visually arresting to the point of being a masterpiece worthy of rigorous study itself, Ruben Brandt, Collector is an intricately plotted, hyper-stylized piece of eye candy with art – the love of, the need for, the inability to escape from – at its wildly beating heart. Improbably yet delightfully, it’s the most exquisite debut film featuring Andy Warhol's Double Elvis and Velázquez's Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress that anyone could ever ask for.