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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Museum Hours [Blu-ray]


(Jem Cohen, 2012)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Little Magnet Films

Video: Cinema Guild



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:46:41.812

Disc Size: 32,579,291,775 bytes

Feature Size: 24,743,491,584 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.99 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 17th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio German 2640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2640 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps



English (for German language), None



• Alternate Voice-over track (English version without subtitles)

• Amber City - 1999 (48:42 - from 16mm)

• Anne Truitt, Working (2010 - 12:38)

Museum (7:28 silent - 1997)

• Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

• Festival Trailer (1:38)

24-page booklet featuring essays by Luc Sante and Jem Cohen





Description: With the aid of helmer Jem Cohen's focused eye, auds as well as protags learn to view art and the world around them through complementary lenses in the warmly intellectualized "Museum Hours." At once intimate and expansive, the pic uses the chance encounter between a Canadian visitor and a museum guard at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum to explore how it's possible to see transcendence even in the mundane.



The Film:

Jem Cohen's "Museum Hours" is difficult to describe but not to enjoy. An observational quasi-documentary with a fictional overlay, it's a film whose pleasures are much more visual than dramatic, but that doesn't mean there aren't serious things on its mind.

Set in Vienna in general and the metropolis' venerable Kunsthistorisches Museum in particular, "Museum Hours" is very different from but brings to mind Alexander Sokurov's 2002 "Russian Ark," another film that gets its spirit from using a great art museum (in that case, Russia's Hermitage) as a setting.

By bringing strangers together in this space — a Vienna museum guard and a woman from another country — "Museum Hours" evokes themes of random companionship and shared humanity.

Excerpt from Kenneth Turan at the LA Times located HERE

The distinction between life and art is one that all genuine works of art live to unmake, even if the circumstances in which we experience art have a way of maintaining the barrier. An art museum, for example, is designated as a place apart from the zones of ordinary existence. We enter to gaze upon beautiful artifacts at a safe distance, standing at the boundary between tedium and rapture. But really, and fortunately, a museum is no different from anywhere else, since beauty and meaning are everywhere, provided we know how to look.

Museum Hours,” Jem Cohen’s quietly amazing, sneakily sublime new film, is partly a reflection on such aesthetic puzzles. Shot on high-definition digital video and super-16-millimeter film in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the film lingers over great paintings by Rembrandt, Bruegel and other European masters, inviting us to contemplate the complex, half-obscured tales they might tell. In one scene, an art historian (Ela Piplits) tries to initiate a crowd of skeptical tourists into the mysteries of Bruegel’s “Conversion of St. Paul” (1567), and Mr. Cohen’s camera supports her arguments by finding details in the picture that might be easy to overlook.

Excerpt from A.O. Scott at the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Museum Hours comes to Blu-ray from Cinema Guild. This was not shot in a straightforward feature manner - from production notes; "We employed only natural light and unnatural but (existing) artificial light. Exteriors were shot in Super 16mm and interiors shot digitally, using both the Red camera and consumer DSLR technology. There was no art director or designer." So the quality varies from location to location but the lack of production lighting brings a layer of vérité to the film experience - that you get the most out of by simply absorbing the mood and visuals. This is dual-layered with a supportive bitrate. Contrast is adept and there are instances of depth. The two formats tend to work well in scene shifts and are not as noticeable as one might anticipate. This Blu-ray image is excellent producing a strong 1080P image and a pleasing visual presentation.

















Audio :

The film's audio is transferred in a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track at 2640 kbps. Also offered is an alternate English voice-over track (simple Dolby digital - but also 5.1) for the German narration although the dialogue in the film is in English, regardless. The surround isn't impactful as the film doesn't require an abundance of separation excepting in a sequence or two. It is clean, crisp with some intentional scattering around the narration. There are English subtitle for the German narration. My Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

As well as offering the alt voice-over track, Cinema Guild include the 48-minute Amber City from 1999 - a commissioned 16mm film portrait of an unnamed city in Italy, drawing on history, folklore and chance observation. The music is by Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Blonde Redhead, Arnold Dreyblatt, Stephen Vitiello and others. Anne Truitt, Working is a 13-minute short from 2010 - it is a portrait of artist Anne Truitt made primarily in and around here studio at the Yaddo's artists' community. She is considered one of the major American artist of the mid-20th century. She worked within an extremely limited set of variables throughout her five-decade career. Museum is an unreleased 7.5-minute silent film from 1997 shot in Super 8. There are also Theatrical, and Festival, Trailers and the package contains a 24-page booklet featuring essays by Luc Sante and Jem Cohen.



Wow - what a film! - I only wish I had seen it sooner so I could have included it in my top 10 in our year-end poll! I feel this is a huge error now. What a warm, mysterious, beautiful film - a gentle dissertation on the endurance, and impact, of art. Museum Hours is brilliant and if not distinguished as a masterpiece - it is surely a near-masterpiece. The Cinema Guild Blu-ray is a wonderful way to embrace the beautifully unique video evokes such vivid impressions. I was blown away. VERY Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

January 2nd, 2014


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze






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