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'Ruben Brandt, Collector,' is a Surreal Animated Thrill Ride 

click to enlarge film_rubenbrandt.jpg

If Ruben Brandt, Collector, the new animated film from Slovenian-born Milorad Krstic, were a live action movie, the budget would've been astronomical — simply because the film includes scenes in some of the most famous art galleries in the world. Even if Krstic doesn't actually take you inside these famous locations, he creates credible renditions of them in the film, a visually rich and surreal experience.

The movie opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre.

The plot centers on psychotherapist Ruben Brandt (Ivan Kamaras), a guy who suffers from nightmares that involve 13 famous paintings. Ruben realizes that if he steals the painting, the nightmare goes away; so he recruits a few of his criminal-minded patients to infiltrate places such as the Louvre, Tate, Uffizi, Hermitage and the Chicago Institute of Art.

Krstic captures the details of each location with incredible accuracy. And he makes Ruben's nightmares really resonate too. While observing Botticelli's Venus, for example, Ruben ends up hallucinating and goes into convulsions because he thinks he's battling an octopus-like creature. All the while, Ruben also vaguely remembers his CIA-operative father showing him the paintings when he was a kid and begins to wonder about what kind of effects they might've had on him.

After Ruben begins to accumulate all these prized works, he becomes the most wanted criminal in the world, and gangsters try to track him down, so they can claim the reward for his capture. In addition, an insurance company hires private detective Mike Kowalski (Zalan Makranczi) to track down the thief.

The film's animation is terrific, and the angular lines give everything a cubist feel. It's hardly conventional stuff; several characters have multiple eyes, and one of the thieves is only two-dimensional, so he can slip under doorways.

While it might be difficult to know what's a dream and what's reality in this trippy movie, the film's unique visual presentation makes it worth the mental effort of following the storyline. It's an ideal movie to prepare you for the visually inventive, sometimes experimental films screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival, which begins next week.

Speaking of CIFF: This year, as in years past, the Festival will play host to more than a dozen films by directors from Central and Eastern Europe as part of the George Gund III memorial competition. Two of those films, Consequences and Erased, hail from Milorad Krstic's Slovenia.

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