“Ruben Brandt, Collector,” tells the story of a psychiatrist tormented every night with violent dreams associated with 13 famous western paintings. To assuage himself of his nightmares, he assembles a team of art thieves who travel around the world with him collecting the images that torture him so that he can subdue their effects.
The film is visually striking; its animation style is meticulous, and every character looks like a moving Picasso portrait. There are no rules that seem to dictate how many eyes or faces a character can have or even how many dimensions they occupy in physical space.
In its imitation of works of great artists, it often picks up what was so informative about them. In creating Mimi, the femme fatale of the movie, the movie takes apart all the visual cues that go into creating the sensuous female leads of thriller movies and reassembles them. The result is an animation that’s not human enough to be attracted to, but one that feels like it should be.
At several points, the film features jazz renditions of famous pop songs that are intoxicating to listen to. It’s also fantastically paced, traveling seamlessly from one activity to another, whipping around from dreams to Chicago to Tokyo and back. Comparisons to “Loving Vincent” (2017), another visually striking movie, are apt: in their strengths and their weaknesses. “Ruben Brandt, Collector” divorced from its cubist animation, is a very normal heist story. It moves fast enough for it to be easy to pay attention to, but the narrative just feels like the vehicle the movie uses to pay attention to what it really has to offer: its animation. It’s a desperate plea to make you pay attention to art.
While “Loving Vincent” may have impressed people in its first half hour of visuals, it then allowed them to fall asleep with its poorly paced plot. “Ruben Brandt, Collector” will keep you awake, but the innovativeness of its style is not matched by its narrative. An at least cursory knowledge of famous paintings and styles would be recommended to watch the movie
The seemingly endless number of references to famous or slightly obscure works of art are rewarding when recognizable but can be tiring to keep up with it, bordering on pretentiousness. I certainly wouldn’t suggest watching the film after a long and tiring day of work. The film’s visuals demand much attention, and its entire point is lost if you can’t pay close attention to the screen.