Milorad Krstić’s animated Ruben Brandt, Collector is a cavalcade of art and film references that are beautifully animated and reward eagle-eyed observation, but references alone do not a compelling story make. Ruben Brandt (Iván Kamarás) is a psychotherapist with an “Exceptional Art Therapy” degree who is haunted by nightmares in which he is attacked by the figures in 13 famous works of art. Since this patients are already art thieves, he enlists them to burgle all the paintings, having decided owning the works will end his nightmares. (A wealthy man has bad dreams: Such high stakes!)
The globetrotting adventure stuff is pretty standard — and the new Carmen Sandiego series arguably does it better — but the whole plot is pretty much an excuse for a constant game of “Remember this thing?” These range from a large swath of Brandt’s backstory being culled from Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom to Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis to a dialog reference to John Landis’s Three Amigos, and at least two uses of the Wilhelm Scream. The treachery of the familiar images may be the point, though in terms of character designs a high tolerance for cubist grotesqueries is required. But for a film that overtly references Hitchcock, Ruben Brandt, Collector never sucks off Vertigo, so that’s refreshing.
Rated R. Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.