Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Great Museum

The restoration of the Kunstkammer Rooms at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Austria is examined in this documentary. With little dialogue, the majority of sound being the ambient noises of the vast, echoing museum, it's a quiet film. Cleaning crews, workmen, and restorers go about their business of ripping up wallpaper, chipping away paint, and tearing out flooring in an effort to prepare for a new installation. The painstaking attention required in caring for centuries-old, priceless works of art is shown, as enormous canvasses are wheeled about, statuary is vacuumed, and velvet-lined cases for jewel-encrusted treasures are dusted out. The mundane, behind-the-scenes activities of budgetary discussions and promotional campaigns carry an unexpected tension, where word choices become the stuff of a tense battle, and a font is removed for being 'too aggressive'. In order to get from one storage area to another, one enterprising employee wheels about on a Razor Scooter. With rubber gloves, face masks, and lab coats, minuscule insects are removed from oil paintings and examined under microscopes. A fascinating, academic documentary, The Great Museum is probably too boring for the casual viewer, but would appeal to activists, art lovers, and museum enthusiasts. Since I'm hardly a casual viewer or easily bored, I liked it a lot. Stay for the gorgeous final shot of the completed rooms in all their gilded glory.

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