Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours
Kunsthistorisches Art Museum in Vienna is one of those grand institutions where
visitors can get happily lost for hours. Filmmaker Jem Cohen will play a game of hide
and seek with his narrative there during the course of Museum Hours (trailer
opens this Friday in New York at the IFC Center.
is not a traveler by nature, but her estranged cousin picks an opportune time
to fall into a coma. Leaving the mess of
her life in Canada, she flies off to Austria, to do all the helpless waiting
around one does in such a situation.
Fortunately, Johann, a late middle-aged museum guard takes her under his
wing. He acts as her translator and
arranges a comp membership for her, giving her a place to while away the hours
of pleasant alienation.
Seinfeld episodes are about more than Museum
Hours, but the docudrama-cinematic essay definitely has its moments
nonetheless. Probably the best of which
happens in the Bruegel room, where a visiting scholar gives a lecture that
would serve as a nifty little companion piece to Lech Majewski’s The Mill and the Cross.
is also an intriguing character with a wonderfully soothing voice for
narration. Played by the
non-professional actor Bobby Sommer, who shares a similarly colorful
background, Johann is a former rock band manager and high school shop teacher,
for whom the novelty of working amongst some of the world’s finest art has not
yet worn off.
the drama is rather thin stuff, mostly involving Anne’s daily visits to her
expiring cousin and the slow evolution of her ambiguous relationship with
Johann. Do not think of this as the
adult analog of E.L. Konigsburg’s From
the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, because Cohen’s approach
is ruminative and deliberately fragmentary.
He also includes plenty of his signature observational tracking shots of
the surrounding streets, which are likely to sharply divide Hours’ critics and partisans. In small doses, they nicely establish a real
sense of place, but a little goes a long way.
Hours is a film whose whole is less than the sum of its parts. There are some fascinating individual scenes,
but a tighter, shorter film would have better served the overall effect. Still, if you enjoy cerebral cinema, it is
probably your best bet this week, whereas those requiring robust narratives are
likely to be frustrated by its hybrid nature.
For those looking for a cheap way to tour the Kunsthistorisches, Museum Hours opens this Friday (6/28) at
the IFC Center.
Labels: Jem Cohen, Pieter Bruegel the Elder