Director Jem Cohen has set his latest film, a lightly experimental fusion of drama and documentary, in Vienna during winter. It is full of charm, intelligence and dry humour.
A first-time visitor to the Austrian capita; is visiting her distant cousin who lies in a coma, when she meets an urbane art museum guard, who acts as her local guide and translator. This is similar to Richard Linklater’s Viennese ‘Before Sunrise’ but much more random and experimental.
Cutting confidently and unobtrusively between 16mm and digital, Cohen interweaves live action with close-up studies of paintings from one of Vienna’s main art galleries, plus personal footage taken while walking the city’s streets – adding in random snapshots of the minor characters and expansive musings on the social context of art - particularly the work of the 16th century Dutch painter Pieter Breughel!
You might be thinking this sounds tricky to get a story from and even harder to watch – you’d be wrong as Cohen structures this in such a personal manner you really feel the engagement in the forms utilized.
The film certainly demands patience and engagement from viewers, however the wit and warmth the director gives this film is deserving of such persistence. Museum Hours is a beautifully photographed film with rather rich hidden layers of meaning.