Art, history and the mysterious currents of mature friendship are all at play in Jem Cohen’s understated “Museum Hours.” Set largely in Vienna’s brimmingly populated Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, Cohen’s film works its way through the new acquaintance of Johann (Bobby Sommer), a museum guard, and Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara), a visitor from New York who escapes her visits with a sick friend by haunting the museum and its masterworks. (The museum’s holdings include a room teeming with paintings by Breughel.) The two are middle-aged, kind, gentle, generous. Cohen’s earlier movies, like “Chain” (2004) and “Benjamin Smoke” (2000), forged their own way of looking into the world, and the quiet, formal dance of the story and the characters of “Museum Hours” is coolly impressive. He lets the moments between them linger, instants of contemplation that afford the same courtesy as an intelligent gaze offers paintings like those on the walls they move along. They create a world, they move through it together. Sometimes it is sublime. 106m. (Ray Pride)
“Museum Hours” opens Friday, November 15 at the Music Box. The trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.