Review of MUSEUM HOURS

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This Austrian film takes place mostly in the grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, located in Vienna.  It’s about a lonely, elderly security guard at the museum named Johann.  He spends most of his day sitting on a chair watching folks look at paintings.  While at work one day, he meets a middle-aged woman named Anne.  They begin talking about paintings and what they mean to them.  Anne’s mother (I think) is in the hospital and asks Johann to go with her so he can help her with talking to the doctor (since she doesn’t speak German).  They spend the movie talking about….. well….. fucking pointless things as far as I’m concerned.  THE. END.  That’s the movie!

Now, before you go off and accuse me of not liking “art” films that have a contemplative nature, let me say that I have liked plenty of artsy fartsy mvoies.  I love visual poems such as TREE OF LIFE.  I love slow-moving foreign films like STALKER.  So that’s not an issue with me.  But if a movie is poorly directed, written and acted, then of course I’m not going to like it.  And that’s what this movie is: Poorly directed, written and acted.

I honestly think that a movie about two lonely people who connect in an art museum could be potentially eloquent.  But the execution here is embarrassing.  Both Johann and Anne are poorly established.  We know almost nothing about them by the end of the film.  Johann looks blankly at paintings while his voice-over narration talks about how he feels about them, which sound like they were written by a 7 year-old.  Anne is a scatterbrained lady who sings (awfully) to her mom at the hospital and talks about absolutely nothing.  Seeing these two talk to each other for countless minutes at a time is about as boring and uninteresting as anything can get.  I heard that these two actors (Mary Margaret O’Hara and Bobby Sommer) have little to no acting experience.  Well…. no shit!

During the entire movie, it seemed like writer(?)/director Jem Cohen was patting himself on the back for being “intellectual” and “deep”.  Besides the characters having meaningless conversations, Cohen throws in countless ugly-looking second unit photography of the city.  All of these shots (and every other shot for that matter) are poorly framed and lit.  A film with this kind of nature is screaming to be shot on film, but instead it was shot in ugly digital.  And then, during one pointless moment, Cohen tries to go really arty and decides to show Johann imagining all of the museum patrons complete nude as they admire paintings.  I think there was some sort of attempt at an arty point here, but it falls completely flat and instead comes across extremely pretentious.  I would love to see what a director like Robert Altman would have done with this material when he was in his prime.

MUSEUM HOURS is one of the worst films I have seen in quite a few years.  I hate picking on independent films (especially when Hollywood is making shit like GROWN UPS 2 and BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 5), but when a movie is terrible, it’s terrible.  This is an absolute chore to sit through.  What should have been a beautiful, contemplative piece of art, ends up being a boring, self-indulgent slog of a film.  I think the movie is trying to show the beauty of art, but you’d be much better off going to your local art museum than sitting through this reject of an art film.  It’s like a really bad student thesis.  In case you couldn’t tell, I hated this film!                 no stars (out of ★★★★)

- Not rated, but contains full frontal nudity.  Most likely would get an R, since it’s not presented in a sexual way.

- Running time: 1hr 46min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

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