I’m so fascinated by “Ruben Brandt, Collector” I hardly know where to begin, except to say when it comes to Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature, its wildly imaginative writer-director, Milorad Krstic, was robbed. Which is weirdly apropos considering his mind-bending film is one about theft, be it priceless paintings or a child’s soul. Told through striking Picasso-esque imagery that blows - and boggles - the mind, the 66-year-old Krstic imbues his debut film with a plethora of homages to his fellow artists as well as his favorite heist movies and their equally inspired directors.

It’s art commenting on art; and what it has to say on the subject is subjective but always clever and stirringly stylistic in its depiction of art’s ability to etch indelibly into the mind. That’s particularly true of Krstic’s protagonist, Ruben Brandt (the name a combination of Rubens and Rembrandt), a shrink in need of a shrink. Brainwashed as a child by his CIA-connected father via subliminal film clips of paintings by the great masters, Ruben can’t erase the images from his mind. They particularly haunt his dreams, where characters from Warhol’s “Double Elvis” and Hopper’s “Nighthawks” to Van Gogh’s “Postman” and Botticelli’s “Venus” physically attack, shoving him out of an airplane, severing an arm or piercing his jugular.

In an effort to erase these demons, he endeavors to steal the 13 paintings he thinks most dangerous from their homes at the Louvre, the Tate, the Guggenheim and other world-famous museums. And to help him do it, he enlists four of his patients, including the seductively drawn femme fatale, Mimi, a figure clearly inspired by Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace in “Pulp Fiction.” She even performs that character’s famous dance, substituting a persistent insurance investigator, Mike Kowalski, for John Travolta’s Vinny Vega. Being that she’s a chronic kleptomaniac, Mimi fits right in with Ruben’s crew, which also includes Membrano, a two-dimensional bank robber able to slip under locked doors with the greatest of ease, and Bye-Bye Joe, a muscle-bound bouncer filling the proverbial Jason Statham role of the ornery, tough-guy Brit.

What ensues is a whacked-out mashup of “Ocean’s 11” and “The Usual Suspects” crossed with the best elements of “Mission: Impossible” and every Hitchcock thriller you can think about in one 90-minute session of pure movie-geek bliss. Look closely and you might even see the Master of Suspense pop-in for his usual cameo as - a cubist ice cube. Toss in some vengeful mobsters, nefarious spies, stupid tourists and a rapidly escalating reward (up to $100 million) attracting bounty hunters from near and far, and you got something akin to cartoon-noir overdose. And that’s forgetting the globetrotting cat-and-mouse games between Kowalski (voiced by Csaba Márton) and his adversaries - Ruben (Iván Kamarás) and Mimi (Gabriella Hamori) - rendering heart-racing “Bullitt”-like car chases and Jason Bourne-type foot pursuits.

Yes, it’s a lot for one movie. Yet it works marvelously, as does the jaw-dropping animation blending hand-drawn and computer-generated images so surreal it’s like being embedded in Picasso’s mind, where humans take on wild geometric shapes with two, three, sometimes, four eyes, and facial features twisted every which way. It almost demands to be seen under the influence of the wacky weed, but why toss your money on the grass when the film already creates such a potent contact high? Oh, and did I mention the incredible soundtrack filled with buried 1960s chestnuts such as “Little Red Riding Hood” from Sam the Sham and the Farrells and the infectious “Even the Bad Times are Good” by The Tremeloes? The showstopper, though, is a jazzy cover of Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I Did It Again,” fitting timelessly into a scene set in a 1920s-era speakeasy.

Still not convinced? Just believe me when I say “Ruben Brant, Collector” is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But for God’s sake don’t bring the kids! This is adult animation in the vein of Robert Crumb and his ilk, complete with nudity and graphic violence. Ironic, since it’s the kid in us this gem so joyously appeals to via captivating visuals and nightmarish “Wizard of Oz” atmospherics. Watch out! It’ll get you, my pretties.

Al Alexander may be reached at alexandercritica@aol.com.

“Ruben Brandt, Collector”
Featuring the voices of Iván Kamarás, Csaba Márton, Gabriella Hamori and Katalin Dombi.
(R for nude images and some violence.)
Grade: A-