NZIFF 51: Ruben Brandt, Collector – Directed by Milorad Krstic

A wildly inventive ride, Ruben Brandt, Collector, directed by Milorad Krstic, is one of the best heist movies – live action or animated – this decade and demands to be seen on the big screen. Clayton Barnett reviews it for The 13th Floor.

What’s more wild than this Hungarian surrealistic caper is that it’s the debut feature of 66-year-old Slovenian writer and director Milorad Krstic, 28 years since his equally artistic and award-winning short My Baby Left Me.

What a sensational debut though. Krstic’s imagination runs riot here in this noir-ish English-speaking thriller. He pays homage to hundreds of famous artworks, including one by our own Billy Apple in a zany pop-art fight scene. If you want a free art-history lesson stick around for the credits that lists every painting.

There are 13 masterpieces, and the characters in them, that give psychotherapist Ruben Brandt freakish nightmares. Four of his criminal patients look to relieve their therapist’s pain and take him on a five-fingered shopping spree across the world’s greatest galleries.

From the first to the last each frame is worthy of study on its own. Over six years in the making with a crew of 150 animators the artistic innovation here is next level. Art lovers and cinephiles will love it with winks to the camera, wry running gags and references everywhere.

As much as it’s a surreal piece of art the actual story is fun and frenetic too. This crime thriller delivers some whiplash-inducing car chases straight out of The French Connection or Ronin. The opening chase between a dogged detective and our femme fatale is a thing of ludicrous beauty.

But it also has the lightness of touch of The Thomas Crown Affair or North by Northwest. Romantic and frequently funny, Hitchcock himself even get’s a cute cameo.

Krstic’s goal was to create an “audio-visual symphony” and he certainly succeeds, with heart-jolting sound design alongside the striking images. The soundtrack is just as bonkers, featuring vintage jazz versions of Radiohead and Britney Spears mixed in with classical works like Nessun Dorma.

For a heist flick this animated masterpiece was robbed during awards season, only picking up a Best Animated Independent Feature at the Annie Awards and ignored at the Oscars.

Borrowing from hundreds of artists from the world of painting and cinema Krstic has delivered his own absolutely mental masterpiece. I hope we don’t have to wait as long for his next visual feast.