Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Clock

Here is a film comprised of hundreds, maybe thousands, of other films; a 24 hour loop montage of snippets showing the exact time you are watching it. For movie buffs it is a rare treat watching a brilliantly edited flow of clips from archival footage to current movie fare.

I couldn’t help imagining Christian Marclay going through an enormous library of movies watching intensely for clocks and watches; some were foreground, others flashed by as background barely incidental to the story. The genius of The Clock is the way those scenes are de-contextualized as the timepieces become prominent in the flow of his film. The effect is cumulative and mesmerizing as if all movies are one elongated movie and life itself an infinite reel held together by time.

With time as the subject and by extension, mortality, an unrelenting tension is built up and sustained. We watched a little less than two hours; some friends stayed for six hours and never tired of it.

I came away with my brain a little scrambled and that’s not a bad thing. It’s better than hard-boiled. Most scenes seemed to be under fifteen seconds; some as long as a minute. Somehow the brevity fit the sound bites we’ve grown accustomed to. It felt like a Rauschenberg collage at best or channel surfing at worst. The art was in the way one’s perception is both sharpened and made to accommodate the juxtapositions.
Paradoxically, though the scenes are sequenced and punctuated by the clock there is no beginning or end since the images are shown as a cycle.

The editing was such that a door opens in one movie and a person in another one walks through. In a few instances Marclay returned us again and again to the same film as when a French schoolchild keeps looking at the clock until he is finally called upon and the bell rings.

We see Roy Hobbs in The Natural smash the clock with his home run, Jack Nicholson, as Schmidt, watch the clock strike 5 and walk away into retirement and blind Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark feel the hands of the clock.

There are many scenes at railway stations, alarm clocks and war movies synchronizing watches. Time carries pressure with it. It detonates bombs. It flies and stops for no man. It hangs heavy. We waste it, we kill it and finally it kills us.

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