starring Mary Margaret O'Hara, Bobby Sommer, Ela Piplits
directed by Jem Cohen
by Angelo Muredda The closing credits of Jem Cohen's warm and wonderful Museum Hours give equal thanks to John Berger and Patti Smith, and it's not hard to see why. Further to being Cohen's friend and occasional collaborator, Smith occupies a rare place at the intersection of art stardom and punk history, while Berger might be the only figurehead total newcomers to art criticism can name, his TV series "Ways of Seeing" having turned innumerable undergraduates onto ideologically-inflected readings of popular images. Whatever their personal contributions to the film may have been, Berger's knack for providing the novice critic with the armature to see intelligently and ethically is as instructive here as Smith's mercurial punk ethos. Museum Hours--which, like Berger's BBC miniseries and book, is destined to have a long afterlife in college art courses--is an absorbing and richly humanist synthesis of those seemingly contradictory impulses, a puckish walking tour through an art gallery that doubles as a manifesto for seeing deeply into the rubbish beyond the walls of the museum.