CALLERI: Animation fans rejoice, ‘Ruben Brandt, Collector’ offers a visual smorgasbord for grown-ups

Sony Pictures ClassicsDirector Milorod Krstic’s new animated feature, “Ruben Brandt, Collector," blends the history of art with the cinematic elements of a heist.

Milorad Krstic, born in Slovenia and a resident of Budapest, Hungary, is 67-years old. I mention his age because he’s directed his first animated feature. All hail working seniors.

The entirety of Krstic’s clever and witty “Ruben Brandt, Collector” plays like a cubist symphony.

Ruben Brandt is a psychotherapist using art to help his patients. “Art is the key to the troubles in the mind,” he tells them. He also has bizarre nightmares.

Mike Kowalski is a movie memorabilia-collecting detective chasing after Mimi, a cat burglar (in the style of “To Catch A Thief”), who’s stealing great art from great museums worldwide. But why?

The Brandt-Kowalski-Mimi story includes swift chases, bumbling gang members, and delightfully quirky flips of the status quo. If you don’t see art, does it exist? Wait a minute, who is Mike Kowalski really?

I think the entirety of “Ruben Brandt, Collector” might be a daydream. You can certainly disagree. However, what a daydream it is. There are references to, and paintings by, numerous artists (Botticelli, van Gogh, Warhol, Dali, Chagall, Rembrandt, and others). There are unique inside movie jokes and dramatic flourishes that are remarkably original.

Krstic’s alluring animation is sleek, surrealistically dazzling, and rooted in an imagination that breaks new ground for fusing theme and visuals. Krstic co-wrote this English-language film with Radmila Roczkov.

I have never seen a heist movie quite like “Ruben Brandt, Collector,” and I exalt in my discovery. Have it be yours.

I also want my own ice cubes shaped like Alfred Hitchcock.

CLIMAX: Think of the worst party you’ve been to. A disastrous event for any number of reasons: boring, overcrowded, bad food, dreary bar, dreadful people.

Add this to the extended, rotten party scene in “Mother!,” the misguided 2017 horror movie from writer-director Darren Aronofsky.

This brings me to “Climax,” whose writer-directer Gaspar Noe is an acquired taste that most moviegoers haven’t acquired. He’s not as interesting as he seems to think he is. Born in Argentina, he was raised from a young age, and educated, in France.

Noe is 55-years old, but he seems not to have done anything exciting, gender-bending, or mind-blowing during his teens or twenties.

His movies are a once-sheltered child’s view of chaos and mania. Not to mention debauchery, lunacy, and close-up mayhem. Sort of like close-up magic, but only creepier.

“Climax” is Noe’s fifth feature, and it’s supposedly based on a true story when somebody at a get-together in Paris in 1996 spiked the Sangria with LSD and all hell broke loose. I thought Sangria was more a 1970s bowl of party punch, but you go with it.

The demented movie features one trained actress, the beautiful and talented Sofia Boutella (“Atomic Blonde”). The rest of the cast is made up of professional dancers. Boutella can’t save the movie, no matter how hard she tries. None of the dancers can act.

The drug-laced Sangria is the liquid of choice at a dance company's post-rehearsal party, and the expected hallucinations beget all manner of ills, including vicious gossip, jealous rivalries, bizarre choreography, and, of course, sex and violence.

I’m not sure what Noe thought his enterprise was supposed to do. Shock? Bewilder? Warn people about hanging out with a dance troupe? Has Noe not seen “Animal House?” “El Topo?” “Pink Flamingos?”

Is there anything worth salvaging? Well, the electronic music is good. And, the film is blessedly short at 97-minutes.

“Climax” seems to be for people who’ve never left the house. There’s no moral to the dreary story, unless its BYOB.

CAPERNAUM: A 12-year-old boy in the slums of Beirut is compelled to take care of a younger child in writer-director Nadine Labaki’s extraordinary drama about the heartbreaking plight of children.

The movie includes a wraparound story about the 12-year old suing his overwhelmed mother and father for neglect after he’s arrested for stabbing someone. The boy blames them for his life of poverty. Are they at fault, or is society?

Using cameras that prowl the crowded, littered streets of Lebanon’s capital city like animals stalking to stave off hunger, Labaki examines the stunning destitution of children in ways that are terrifyingly fresh and utterly captivating.

Nominated for best foreign language film this year, “Capernaum” explores some of the worst aspects of life and succeeds in being neither oppressive nor sentimental.

THE HOWLING AND ALFRED HITCHCOCK: Two area film series programmed by employees of Dipson Theatres have scheduled two of my all-time favorite movies next week. The owners of the independent theater chain have entrusted homegrown talent to showcase superior classic features on a monthly basis.

At the Eastern Hills Cinema on Wednesday, March 20, Alex Weinstein’s “Noir Essentials” presents Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 criss-cross murder masterpiece, “Strangers On A Train,” which stars Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Patricia Hitchcock, and Leo G. Carroll. Patricia Highsmith’s novel about a psychotic obsession is given a glittering production.

At the Amherst Theatre on Thursday, March 21, Peter Vullo’s “Thursday Night Terrors” presents director Joe Dante’s “The Howling,” the werewolves in a mountain resort adventure from 1981, which stars Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Kevin McCarthy and Slim Pickens. A television anchorwoman is stalked and things go from bad to worse.

Both films begin at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $7.

Michael Calleri reviews films for Night & Day. Contact him at