(Also check out Catherine Wagley's previous post: "Christian Marclay's The Clock Starts Ticking at LACMA")
When midnight struck in Christian Marclay's The Clock, the crowd in Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theater burst into spontaneous applause. The film itself showed a rapid succession of clocks striking midnight, impressive in the way fireworks are, but not necessarily mind-boggling or insightful. The excitement in the theater likely had more to with the fact we'd all made it from May 16th into the 17th.
By this time, I'd been on the LACMA's campus for over 13 hours, with the exception of a quick dash out for a to-go dinner. I arrived just before the 11 a.m. start time for artist Marclay's 24-hour opus, a carefully edited film that makes you painfully then pleasantly aware of each passing minute as you travel from one timepiece-centric movie clip to another -- each one timed so that the timepiece you see is showing the same time it is while you're watching it.
The crowd then largely consisted of the professorial-type professionals with non-conventional day jobs or retired folks. I saw it change to the off-work happy hour variety, the pre-dinner and drinks and then the post-dinner and drinks group, and, finally, game friends and couples planning to see it through the morning.
After 6:30 p.m., I could no longer easily find empty seats, and had to squeeze in beside someone else. After 9 p.m., without fail, every time someone onscreen asked some variation of "What time is it?" the audience erupted into laughter.
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Early yesterday, I wrote that The Clock pulled at the heartstrings like a well-made romantic comedy. But romantic comedies get old. Watching them for 24 hours would be like a chocolate binge -- you'd hate yourself by the end. The Clock drew me in every single time. I'd plan to pop in for another quick 20 minutes before grabbing a coffee and end up staying twice as long.
This feeling has to do with what many people picked up on when the film screened in New York and London earlier this year: even if we're watching each minute pass, movie time either goes at super-human speed or crawls by overtly, severely slowly. Either way, most moments seem really, really portentous. And Marclay hasn't tempered movie time. He's made it denser, and addictive.
The best time to watch is on the hour. Actors cheesily dash away realizing they've got somewhere to be or sometimes just stare at the hour hand until it moves. Then -- bang -- it does: at 11:00 p.m. on the dot, Natalie Portman looked at the clock and said, "Shit."
During the 11 o'clock hour, people onscreen, like those in the audience, got drunker. Cars crashed, a baby was born, King Kong made a token appearance. But after 12, the energy level shifted almost immediately. Jane Fonda and Andie MacDowell kept trying to sleep despite ringing telephones and a young man in a supermarket -- I'm not sure what film he's from -- said, "There's always that hour when ladies get desperate and standards plummet. That's the hour I get off work." I left just before 1 a.m., though plenty of others stayed.