From light years to hours

I’ve been big fan of Jem Cohen’s work for a long time now.  Long before I started making my own little experimental films, I was inspired by his abstracted portraits of urban landscapes, blending 16mm, Super 8, and video.   I first found out about him through his collaborations with musicians like R.E.M., Fugazi and the late, great Vic Chesnutt.

Cohen’s feature-length film Museum Hours opened in New York City in June and I was looking forward to seeing it when I found out that Anthology Film Archives would be showing some of his shorter, earlier works in a two-part series at which the filmmaker would be present!  I was only able to make it the the first part of the series, entitled “Some Early Work” but it was so rewarding to see some of Cohen’s output from the late 80’s like Just Hold Still, Light Years, Glue Man and Talk About Passion.

The real treat, though, was getting to see Buried In Light again after many years. Shot in Berlin, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, and Dresden, the film was described by the late Linda Dubler, media arts curator at the High Museum in Atlanta, as “a meditation on history, memory, and change in Central and Eastern Europe…”  Seeing the film again so many years after its debut in 1994, I appreciated it even more as both a work of art and historically valuable documentation of post-communist Europe being courted by capitalist commercialism.

Having now revisited some of Mr. Cohen’s past work, I can’t wait to see echoes of his early experimentation in Museum Hours and perhaps also in his upcoming multimedia performance at BAM this September.

Museum Hours is now playing at IFC Center.  Learn more at www.ifccenter.com.

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