Museum Hours: figures in the landscape | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Museum Hours: figures in the landscape

In Jem Cohen's new drama, two strangers bond over Breugel

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A Montreal woman (Mary Margaret O'Hara) journeys to Vienna to watch over a comatose cousin and, left to her own devices in a foreign city, strikes up a friendship with an elderly guard (Bobby Sommer) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Their friendship plays out largely in the museum galleries, against canvases by Rembrandt and Bruegel, and a lengthy monologue about the latter, delivered by a docent at the movie's midpoint, underlines how deeply writer-director Jem Cohen (Benjamin Smoke) has internalized Breugel's fascination with seemingly trivial but sharply idiosyncratic characters. The two leads contribute fresh, genuine performances, and what might have been a musty academic exercise gains in tension from Cohen's deft juxtaposing of vocal narration, character detail, and majestic artwork. In English and subtitled German.

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