Jem Cohen – Museum Hours (2012)

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Acclaimed filmmaker Jem Cohen’s new feature, Museum Hours, is a mesmerizing tale of two adrift strangers who find refuge in Vienna’s grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum. Johann, a museum guard, spends his days silently observing both the art and the visitors. Anne, suddenly called to Vienna from overseas, has been wandering the city in a state of limbo. A chance meeting sparks a deepening connection that draws them through the halls of the museum and the streets of the city. The exquisitely photographed Museum Hours is an ode to the bonds of friendship, an exploration of an unseen Vienna, and the power of art to both mirror and alter our lives. Continue reading

Jem Cohen – Just Hold Still (1989)

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In his New York City landscape, Cohen finds inspiration in disturbance. Looking to life for rhythm and to architecture for state of mind, he locates simple mysteries. Just Hold Still is comprised of an interconnected series of short works and collaborations that explore the gray area between documentary, narrative, and experimental genres.

The first part concerns a personal, poetic approach to narrative and includes 4:44 (From Her House Home), Never Change (with Blake Nelson), Love Teller (with Ben Katchor), and Light Years. The second part involves hybridized use of verité footage and the confrontation of documentary concerns with the music video format and includes Selected City Films, Glue Man (with Ian MacKaye), and Talk about the Passion (with R.E.M). The work can be considered as a whole, or each piece in the project can be viewed (and rented) as a separate entity. Continue reading

Jem Cohen – Drink Deep (1992)

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Drink Deep is a lyrical vision of friendship, hidden secrets, and desires. Cohen uses several types of film image to add texture to the layered composition. Beautiful shades of grey, silver, black and blue echo the water, reminiscent of early photography and silverprints. Cohen says, “The piece was constructed primarily from footage I’d shot of skinnydippers at swimming holes in Georgia and rural Pennsylvania. It’s about water and memory and stories just submerged. It is also, in part, a response to thinking about censorship. I would say that Drink Deep is both unabashedly and deceptively romantic. Surface, flow, and undertow. What looks like paradise is always paradise lost.”

Music composed by Stephen Vitiello and performed with Gabriel Cohen and Mary Wooten. Continue reading

Jem Cohen – Lost Book Found (1996)

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The result of over five years of Super-8 and 16mm filming on New York City streets, Lost Book Found melds documentary and narrative into a complex meditation on city life. The piece revolves around a mysterious notebook filled with obsessive listings of places, objects, and incidents. These listings serve as the key to a hidden city: a city of unconsidered geographies and layered artifacts—the relics of low-level capitalism and the debris of countless forgotten narratives. The project stems from the filmmaker’s first job in New York—working as a pushcart vendor on Canal Street. As usual, Cohen shot in hundreds of locations using unobtrusive equipment and generally without any crew. Influenced by the work of Walter Benjamin, Cohen created “an archive of undirected shots and sounds, then set out to explore the boundary” between genres. During the process, Cohen said, “I found connections between the street vendor, Benjamin’s ‘flaneur’, and my own work as an observer and collector of ephemeral street life.” Continue reading