Museum Hours
R2 - United Kingdom - Soda Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (11th January 2014).
The Film

***This is an A/V and extras review only. For reviews on the movie from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

Jem Cohen writes and directs this reflective drama about a developing friendship between two strangers. Once a road manager for hard-rock bands, 60-something Austrian Johan (Bobby Sommer) now spends his days working as a security guard at a Viennese art gallery. One day, while quietly pondering the paintings and the endless streams of tourists, he meets Anne (Mary Margaret O'Hara), a Canadian who has arrived in Vienna to visit a relative who is in a coma at a local hospital. After offering his services as an interpreter for her dealings with the hospital authorities, Johan soon becomes Anne's guide to the city at large. As the pair traverse the city, stopping off at bars and cafes along the way, a deepening relationship begins to build between them as they share their thoughts on art and life.


Independent distributor Soda Pictures have released Jem Cohen's "Museum Hours" onto DVD in the United Kingdom in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The disc is PAL, and the transfer is overall strong.

Director Jem Cohen decided on using two different types of camera to film "Museum Hours", using 16mm for the outdoor scenes, and Digital (Red One) for the scenes which take place indoors. This does result in a change of quality between these scenes, but the difference is not as big as you would expect, with the 16mm footage looking surprisingly solid. Natural light and normal lighting was used, yet it doesn't cause too much of an adverse affect on the detail. The paintings within the museum look good, with the level of detail at the higher end of the spectrum for the DVD format, and although skin tones look a little warm at times, they seem accurate for the majority. Black levels are solid with little sign of crushing, and although there is some minor artefacting in the outdoors scenes due to the source materials, there are no real problems to be concerned about. The transfer isn't reference material, but it's a strong showing.

The feature runs 102:17.


The following audio options have been made available:
- German/English Dolby Digital 5.1
- German/English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

The original language of the feature is German narration, with English dialogue, so obviously I opted for the German/English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It was a different experience in comparison to other tracks, with a very natural feel to it. There isn't a score to speak of, so the film relies heavily on the subtle environmental sounds for the 5.1, and thankfully, it delivers. Subtle chatter and footsteps make for a feeling that you are truly in the museum, looking at the various exhibits, and sounds of gentle traffic noise gives the feeling of walking down the road with characters. It's a very quiet track, but makes exceptional use of small effects. There were no obvious signs of damage to the audio track to my ears.

Optional English subtitles are available for the narration only, and not the dialogue.


We start off the extras with a selection of short films directed by Jem Cohen:
- "Amber City" (48:42)
- "Anne Truitt, Working" (12:38)
- "Museum (Visiting The Unknown Man)" (7:28)
"Amber City" is a commissioned 16mm film portrait of an unnamed Italian city which draws on folklore, history and chance observation. It features music by Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Blonde Redhead, Arnold Dreyblatt, and Stephen Vitiello among others. "Anne Truitt, Working" is a portrait of artist Anne Truitt made primarily in and around her studio at the Yaddo Artists' Community. "Museum (Visiting The Unknown Man)" is essentially an early pre-cursor to the main feature "Museum Hours" shot in the mid-1990's and previously unreleased. It's silent and was shot on super 8. Although these shorts are not as good as the main feature, they are still worth viewing and are certainly a welcome addition to this package.

The rest of the extras are self-explanatory.
Start-up Trailers:
- "Renoir" (1:51)
- "Hannah Arendt" (1:45)
- "Wadjda" (1:47)
Theatrical Trailer (2:04)


The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C+ Overall: B+


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