Museum Hours (12A) 107 mins ****
Jem Cohen’s quiet, strange and increasingly compelling hybrid-film uses a brief encounter between wisened souls – Johann (Bobby Sommer), a genial guard at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, and Anne (singer Mary Margaret O’Hara), a Canadian tourist – to frame an inquiry into art history and the pleasures of looking. Inspired by Brueghel’s busy tableaux, Cohen is drawn to museum minutiae: a canvas’s unnoticed details, yawning schoolchildren, cigarette butts gathering outside the entrance. As the relationship progresses, he ends up cataloguing Vienna itself, transforming even its banal or throwaway features into a kind of art. It sounds impossibly rarefied, but the leads map out something unforced and charming between them, and Cohen’s left-of-centre perspectives, juxtapositions and sight gags really do grow on you. Like José Luis Guerín’s brilliant 2007 curio In the City of Sylvia, this is one of those rare films that may change the way you view the world.
Museum Hours opens in selected cinemas from today.