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Review: Ruben Brandt, Collector

Lost in the cinematic dumping grounds of the post-awards season, this animated delight shines like a diamond in the rough. Singular in its style, the Hungarian Ruben Brandt, Collector is a heist film, psychological drama and wonderfully artistic exercise rolled into one. It is the kind of delightful film that you will want to recommend to every art fan and cinephile you know.

The titular character is a psychiatrist who specializes in treating criminals with an artistic method. Let them work out their desires to rob and steal via creating art. Yet Ruben is haunted by his own demons. His nightmares plague him. In them, he is often hunted down and terrorized by characters from famous paintings. He breaks down at museums or while reading art magazines at the very sight of these influential works by masters such as Hopper, Warhol, and Monet.

Enter in Mimi, a professional thief who wants to stop her kleptomania. Hilariously her job is that of a thief but her tendency to take more than she was hired to steal is getting in the way. She seeks out Ruben to cure her and quickly sees a way in which to help him get rid of his demons. She convinces his other patients to help her steal famous works of art in order to quiet Ruben's demons. Since Ruben has helped them so much, they agree. There is a private investigator who begins to hunt them down and a few other side characters but the film largely focuses on this motley crew of thieves.

The clever and thrilling plot is brought to vivid life by first-time director Milorad Krstic. The animation style frequently references art movements such as cubism and yet it also feels completely modern. Some scenes have a hyper-realistic look to them and seem aided by computers. The combination of art influences and unique looks blend together to create something memorable that last long past the film's thriller plot.

Animation fans and art fans will find so much to enjoy in Ruben Brandt, Collector. I kept recognizing references to film and art but never once did it distract me from being involved in the story. The chase sequences are incredible and full of verve. They feel as carefully constructed as any modern blockbuster, maybe even more so. Overall the film is visual stunner with a fun sensibility and thrilling action. It's just about everything you could ask for even if the plot doesn't linger like the visuals do.



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