Art nerds will get the most out of “Ruben Brandt, Collector,” an adults-only animated thriller from Hungary whose visual imagination far outpaces its lackluster plot.
The title character is a psychotherapist suffering from incapacitating hallucinations, all of them involving great works of art. One minute, a girl from a Velasquez painting is biting his arm; the next, a cat from a Manet nude is leaping at him to claw his face. His fear of art may go back to his father, Gerheart, an art historian, but that doesn’t help him solve the problem of how to get rid of the nightmares.
At the institute where he treats patients, he welcomes Mimi, who has the signs of being a kleptomaniac. The audience has already seen the evidence, when she heists an Egyptian artifact from the Louvre while ignoring the massive diamond her mob benefactors sent her to steal. The heist is followed by a breakneck car chase through Paris and along the Seine, with a detective, Mike Kowalski, in hot pursuit.
Mimi is laying low at Brandt’s institute, but she’s touched by his suffering. She comes to believe that the way to cure Brandt is to let him possess the paintings that torment him. So Mimi enlists three of her fellow patients, all career criminals, to stage a baker’s dozen of robberies to acquire the 13 paintings that bedevil him.
The journey allows director Milorad Krstic — who’s also the writer, lead animator, production designer and film editor — to indulge in the visual splendor of art. His characters often have a surplus of eyes or noses, like Picasso figures, and Brandt’s hallucinations allow Krstic to create his own takes on such famous paintings as Andy Warhol’s “Double Elvis” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” And since every painting is in a different city, Krstic gets to riff on architecture and urban design, too.
Still, one wishes the story was as rich as the visuals. Instead, the story serves as an extended audio tour of the art history as interpreted by Krstic’s wild palette.
‘Ruben Brandt, Collector’
Opened February 15 in select cities; opens Friday, March 15, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas (Salt Lake City). Rated R for nude images and some violence. Running time: 96 minutes.