Jem Cohen – Museum Hours
Museum Hours got a lot of critical love, but for me it represented the worst of arthouse cinema. It’s tale of a Canadian woman visiting Austria to tend to a sick relative and the friendship she forms with a museum guard at one of Vienna’s huge art museums. I’ll talk more later about some of the other reasons this film doesn’t work at all, but a few sins to lay at Cohen’s door. First of all, his inexplicable decisions to allow his actors to mumble and improvise most of their dialogue is annoying and awkward enough at the best of times; when they’re seated at a corner table in the noisiest bar in Vienna, it becomes rage inducing. Likewise, Cohen attempts to capture what he would call “the city,” I’m sure via lengthy sequences that have nothing to do with the characters or plot of the movie. These things are tolerable in small doses, but when he cuts to a flea market and allows us to watch people pawing through boxes of old clothes for every bit of five minutes, he has so far exceeded the tolerable limit as to deserve nothing so much as a swift boot to the head. At one point, he stops the movie dead in the water for around ten minutes so we can follow a tour guide around lecturing about Breughel the Elder. It’s also about the most pedantic, obnoxious lecture imaginable, but I guess we’ll have to blame Jem Cohen the screenwriter instead of Jem Cohen the director for that one. He repeatedly cuts away from this lecture to a different location in the museum, leading the viewer to believe that the interminable rant about folk art is over, only to have the lecturer step into frame and begin yammering yet again. By the third time this happened, I was literally furious and would gladly have thrown something at the screen if I’d had anything aside from my (silenced!) cell phone readily to hand. And, Jem, last but not least, you’re strolling around one of the most glorious museums in the entire world with a bunch of cameras. Maybe capture a little of the art; you know in enough light that we can actually see it. Even when he does a close up on a painting, the lighting is so dim that you can’t really see the details, even though it’s blown up on a big screen in front of you. Oh, yeah, also several of the movies I’ve talked about so far have really excellent use of voice-overs: Oldboy, Don Jon, Room 237. This movie has the worst use of voice-overs I’ve ever heard in my life. Literally. No word on what this ****head’s doing next. Rest assured, I’ll be staying away from it. What a pretentious twit.
Next time, I’ll start posting the best directors again and we’ll kick it off with an old hand at directing that proved this year that he’s better than ever.