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Originally published Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 3:09 PM

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‘Museum Hours’: an enthralling view on life, art, mortality

A movie review of “Museum Hours,” a film that takes place mostly in modern Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum and follows a guard (Bobby Sommer) and a tourist (Mary Margaret O’Hara) he befriends.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 3.5 stars

‘Museum Hours,’ with Mary Margaret O’Hara, Bobby Sommer, Ela Piplits. Written and directed by Jem Cohen. 106 minutes. Rated PG-13 for subject matter, nudity. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

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Johann (Bobby Sommer) is a middle-aged guard at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, where he’s worked for six years and finds the job “not bad at all.”

Anne (singer-songwriter Mary Margaret O’Hara) is a Canadian tourist who seems at loose ends in the city. Johann notices that she’s spending a lot of time in the museum looking at one of his favorite paintings, Pieter Bruegel’s “The Peasant Wedding.”

Eventually they become acquaintances and then friends. He needs something to relieve him of the occasional tedium of his work. She needs someone to help her through the dying days of a distant cousin in an Austrian hospital.

In the process, they explore the city, encounter a gang of rowdy school kids, discuss their favorite heavy-metal bands — and “Museum Hours” becomes an enthralling and sometimes droll meditation on life, art and mortality, not to mention Internet porn and its influence on modern art.

The Afghan-born writer-director Jem Cohen is best-known for a series of shorts and videos and the 2006 anti-war concert documentary “Building a Broken Mousetrap.” He’s clearly a talent to watch.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

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