By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
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Ruben Brandt, Collector is a tour de force which spotlights not only some of the greatest works of modern art but also honours the filmmakers of auteur cinema. The raison d’être is because this character suffers from nightmares, and it brings them to life in animated form. This Hungarian film is amazingly rich in detail and escapist style art. These paintings attack Ruben and he believes by owning them, he can tame his dreams. This motivation may seem odd for the psychiatrist turned criminal mastermind. He’s convinced his patients to steal for him.
Wily Mimi (Gabriella Hámori), Brawny Bye-Bye Joe (Matt Devere), Hacker Fernando (Christian Niels Buckholdt) and Big Boned Membrano Bruno (Henry Grant) make up this ensemble and Detective Kowalski (Csaba Marton) is hunting for them. He knows these thieves can not resell these works in the black market, and in order to get them back, he will have to get into the minds of these wily robbers.
These crooks are highly skilled. Amusingly, the detective takes a liking to Mimi, and this romance makes the chase a fun cat-and-mouse game. The world is their oyster, and when they attempt to steal art from right under the public’s nose even, I could not help but cackle. The chase sequences are cranked up to 11 for exciting, perhaps even surpassing the stunts from the Mission Impossible series. Although the more obvious nods to classic film noir had me wondering how much of the early 20th-century art milieu is splashed throughout the work. One style easily apparent is Cubism; it’s everywhere in all the character designs. Pop Art defines much of the later acts, and Dada is still a style I sometimes find hard to wrap my head around. Give me Edvard Munch‘s “The Scream” and I’ll be fine.
The Jazz music filled moments are the highlights of this cinematic work of art. It fuses everything I recall from art history. The tributes to recent heist films are beautiful, but those scenes are only as good assuming audiences have seen ’em. I skipped a few but can say I recognized all those Mission Impossible moments. The bits concerning Ruben’s past went by to quick and needs to be seen again to understand how he developed these night terrors.
When this film comes to home video, I’m hoping the bonus featurettes will explore more of this world. I’d love to know more about why certain works of art have come to plague Brandt’s subconscious. When we have Édouard Manet’s “Olympia” coming to life or the character with his back facing us in Edward Hopper “Night Owls” turn around, only to look like a creature out of Stephen King’s imagination–perhaps the manifestation is rooted in this person’s youth. He did suffer from abuse as a child. A commentary can help explain some parts of the film; a complete profile of all these characters are needed to understand the third pillar which defines this film: psychoanalysis. The other two were heist and film noir.
I get Kowalski, but for the others, I need to know more about why one thief is literally rendered two-dimensional. This film must be seen at least once in cinemas to admire the details on the biggest canvas of all, the movie screen.
5 Stars out of 5