Dallas Movie Screening

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Ruben Brandt, Collector

Ruben Brandt (voiced by Iván Kamarás), an art therapist, has recurring nightmares featuring several works of famous artwork, among them Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” Andy Warhol’s “Double Elvis,” and Édouard Manet’s “Olympia.” Currently treating a trio of patients, all of them criminals, Brandt welcomes newcomer Mimi (voiced by Gabriella Hámori) to the group. Mimi is herself a criminal, a kleptomaniac who recently stole a piece from a museum. Her getaway, thwarted by a detective Mike Kowalski (voiced by Csaba «Kor» Márton), caused her to throw the piece into the river, forcing the detective to fetch the artifact over his criminal. Realizing that her doctor is just as troubled as his patients, Mimi proposes to the others – Bye-Bye Joe (Matt Devere), Membrano Bruno (Henry Grant), and Fernando (Christian Nielson Buckhold) – that they steal the pieces tormenting the doctor to help him overcome his nightmares. As the group, assumed to be a solo thief and soon known in the media as the Collector, continues to enrage the art world Kowalski is hot on their heels.

Writer / director Milorad Krstić creates a distinctive work with his animated film “Ruben Brandt, Collector.” The animation, reminiscent of the surrealist movement, looks like a combination of hand-drawn and computer imagery. No two characters look the same. Some have a fairly normal and realistic appearance to an extent but most do not. Faces are often unusually structured and oddly shaped with characters having too many eyes, an extra nose, or features where they shouldn’t be (eyes in their hair or on their hats). Similar to a lot of early animated work, think the Fleischer studio’s (famous for the Betty Boop and Popeye shorts) output of the 1920s and 1930s, Krstić’s movie has a lot going on. The background of many scenes are active with a flurry of gags, keeping the viewers eyes busy as the action unfolds on screen.

The film combines and pulls elements from many genres. Brandt’s nightmares take on the tone of a horror movie, complete with the overbearing score you’d hear in most of those films. A train ride takes a horrific turn when characters from famous pieces attempt to drag Brandt off the train. At one point, Botticelli’s Venus transforms into an Ursula-like octopus that attacks him during a visit to an art museum. The story takes on a heist / action movie theme as Brandt and his patients attempt to steal the works of art, driving the story to its finale via car chase. Elements of film noir are scattered throughout, most apparent in the lighting of some scenes which use the exaggerated contrast and shadows of that genre. As it does with works of art and film, “Ruben Brandt, Collector” also toys with the music selections. Night club scenes – also oddly animated, the singer’s lips don’t move but the shadow of her lips do – feature sultry versions of pop songs by artists like Britney Spears while classical music (Mozart) is also thrown into the mix.

For a film like Milorad Krstić’s “Ruben Brandt, Collector,” it’s probably best that viewers don’t go in completely cold to the experience. An overview of art, music, and film history – pop culture in general – would probably increase the enjoyment of an initial viewing, though it’s not necessarily a prerequisite for one. “Ruben Brandt, Collector” is enjoyable in its own right, a fun animated movie.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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