Category: film

The Clock, Part 4: Interstice

Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) is an ambitious 24-hour montage stitched together from feature films and TV shows. Each clip, ranging from a split second to a few minutes, takes place during the time of the day at which it plays. Over the next few months, I will attempt to see all twenty-four hours at the Tate Modern in London, documenting the experience in a way as haphazard as the fractured experience of watching the work itself.

Meshes of the Afternoon

Part 4 of this series. I wrote this article after viewing 17:02–17:55 (53 minutes) on 4 November 2018 and 16:30–17:02 (32 minutes) on 8 November 2018. Seen: 11 hours 57 minutes. Remaining: 12 hours 3 minutes.

Read Part 1: Introduction, in which I discuss my initial excitement about the return of The Clock.

Read Part 2: Matineé in which I reflect on familiarity, recognition, tension, time’s passage, simultaneity, and death.

Read Part 3: Graveyard Shift in which I stay up all night and misidentify noir.


A few weeks ago I posted about my ill-advised all-nighter. Since then, Ari Haque at the Guardian has outdone me, and seen all twenty-four hours in a single sitting! She observes many of the same things that I did in earlier instalments, including anxiety about the time of day one can in conscience begin drinking, the value of timepieces, the strange habit of steak for lunch, and the relationship between time and death.

Since my overnight challenge, I’ve been back for two short episodes to fill in gaps. Over the past weekend, I did an additional four hours overnight. This is a short post with some thoughts I had on one afternoon, before I discuss 6–10am in greater detail in a later post.

Blow Out.

This time I went with a friend. We got in at 17:02, to John Lithgow hanging menacingly over the side of a bathroom stall with a garrote, considering whether to strangle a woman. I hadn’t seen this film, but it’s apparently Blow Out (1981), based on Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966). From the wikipedia article, Blow Out apparently makes allusions to The Conversation (1974)— which in turn was also based on Blow-Up. Confusing, I know. Even more so since both of the other films also appear in The ClockBlow-up at 6:15am, and The Conversation a few times in the morning, including a scene with a telescope at 7:48am.

I cannot recommend Coppola’s The Conversation highly enough, however, and, for what it’s worth, I think it is is not only better than the original Blow-Up, but it is quite possibly better than the two Godfather films that Coppola made on either side of it. In what must be a rare instance of one director having two films nominated for best picture, The Conversation lost, in 1974, to The Godfather Part II.

At 17:05 there were duelling duels; that is, there were pistol duel scenes from different films intercut with one another. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef appeared in iconic roles, but apparently not iconic enough for us to place them. My friend said “A Fistful of Dollars?” I said, “I think it’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?” Confoundingly, the wiki said “For a Few Dollars More.” So we covered the whole Man with No Name trilogy. My friend later confirmed that the wiki was right: it’s from For a Few Dollars More.

For a Few Dollars More.

At 17:14 we found a seat; by coincidence it was precisely the same seat in which I’d spent the all-nighter: second from the front on the right. It was a great vantage point into The Clock‘s timeless gorge of changes*.

Marclay began to play surealist tricks around 17:15. A shot of a woman putting a roast into an oven is followed immediately by a man withdrawing cash, implying an unlikely transformation due to the expectations set subliminally by continuity editing. The Clock frequently uses the device of showing a character gazing out-of-frame, followed by a countershot into another film. This can be jarring, as we expect to see what the character sees, but The Clock presents us with something entirely implausible.  Similarly, characters often walk through a doorway into another film, changing both the setting and the character in a  cut. This shows how many of the expectations of film are structural, rather than based on their content, and draws attention to the powerful devices of Hollywood continuity editing (also known as Hollywood classical style or Hollywood continuity style).

At 17:41, there’s a sequence of Celia Johnson boarding the train in Brief Encounter. At 17:49, my friend pointed out An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, the short story of which I’d read as a teenager, but I hadn’t realised that it had been adapted for TV, and which I’d quite like to see.

Michael Caine, Gene Tierney, Jeremy Irons, and Alain Delon made a surprising number of appearances. At 17:51, Delon appeared in the painfully cool Le samourai (1967), which is much better than Le cercle rouge (1970) which appears more frequently in The Clock.

During this session I thought about the way in which the clock motif constrains film locations. There are plenty of bedside clocks, as I discussed last time. But there are also boardrooms, classrooms, stations, airports, and clock towers. Some scenes contain the time only incidentally, and these tend to be in a relatively small set of places. Unless a clock tower looms, for example, there would not be a wide shot of a park, or of nature. Landscapes are thus virtually eliminated, unless there is a character who happens to check his watch against a natural backdrop, as a result of time pressure. Meanwhile offices appear constantly. This can draw attention to the artificiality of time, and the spaces in which time matters.

I’ll leave it there, as I prepare to post about 6–10am soon.

The Clock, Part 3: Graveyard Shift

Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) is an ambitious 24-hour montage stitched together from feature films and TV shows. Each clip, ranging from a split second to a few minutes, takes place during the time of the day at which it plays. Over the next few months, I will attempt to see all twenty-four hours at the Tate Modern in London, documenting the experience in a way as haphazard as the fractured experience of watching the work itself.

Insomnia

Part 3 of this series. I wrote this article after viewing 23:23–05:35 (6 hours 12 min) on 4 November 2018. Seen: 10 hours 27 minutes. Remaining: 13 hours 33 minutes.

Read Part 1: Introduction, in which I discuss my initial excitement about the return of The Clock.

Read Part 2: Matineé in which I reflect on familiarity, recognition, tension, time’s passage, simultaneity, and death.


It took while to put my thoughts together for the 2 hours and 40 minutes I saw a few weeks ago; last weekend I saw six hours straight, so this has been more than a little intimidating to write. However, I’m glad to have finished most of the night shift. Continue reading

The Clock, Part 2: Matineé

Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) is an ambitious 24-hour montage stitched together from feature films and TV shows. Each clip, ranging from a split second to a few minutes, takes place during the time of the day at which it is played. Over the next few months, I will be attempting to see all twenty-four hours at the Tate Modern in London, documenting the experience in a way as haphazard as the fractured experience of watching the work itself.

Watching the Clock

The Clock does not ask for the time and then steal your watch; it asks for you to watch then steals your time.

Part 2 of this series. This article was written after viewing 11:21–13:06 (1 hour 45 min) and 14:30–15:25 (55 min) on 24 October 2018, for a total of 2 hours 40 minutes. Seen: 4 hours 15 minutes. Remaining: 19 hours 45 minutes.

Read Part 1: Introduction, in which I talk about my initial excitement about the return of The Clock.

Since my last instalment, I read an excellent New Yorker piece from 2012 which my friend had recommended, and to which I’ll refer throughout. I was excited to learn that Marclay had frequented the late Kim’s Video in New York, whose voluminous collection I visited in the distant past, and about which another excellent article was written (removed from The Village Voice’s website but fortuitously preserved by the Internet Archive). Continue reading

The Clock, Part 1: Introduction

Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) is an ambitious 24-hour montage stitched together from feature films and TV shows. Each clip, ranging from a split second to a few minutes, takes place during the time of the day at which it is played. Over the next few months, I will be attempting to see all twenty-four hours at the Tate Modern in London, documenting the experience in a way as haphazard as the fractured experience of watching the work itself.

A First Glance at The Clock

Part 1 of this series. This article was written after viewing 13:55–14:30 of The Clock on 16 October 2018.

See also Part 2 in which I watch around 3 hours of the afternoon.

A time to be born, a time to die…

The Set-Up

A few weeks ago, on the 27th September, I discovered (by accident) that The Clock was back. My sister was visiting from New York, and on our obligatory walk along the Southbank I thought I’d show her the architecture of the Tate Modern. I had explicitly planned not to spend much time there, as we were on a bit of a schedule, but just to peek into its formidable space. When I saw posters for The Clock, however, I became very excited, and asked her whether she would be willing to watch it for a few minutes. Naturally she acquiesced, as I had been the one insisting that we ought not to stay long. In the end we stayed an hour. I was excited, and she liked it too. The Clock was back! Continue reading

Dreams (1955)

I’ve often felt that many of Bergman’s middling films, had they been directed by virtually anyone else, could be another filmmaker’s masterpiece, but Bergman made so many phenomenal films that he more or less overwhelms any possible selection process. Dreams is like that; minor for Bergman, average even, but still outstanding in its own right. Beginning with no dialogue, it introduces its two female protagonists in opposite power dynamics: Susanne (Eva Dahlbeck), owner of a model agency, watching and judging, while the she and the rest of the room ogle Doris (Harriet Andersson), the passive and tortured model. The silence of this opening, punctuated only by the infuriating drumming of a morbidly obese, never-named onlooker, is a purely cinematic experience. It abruptly gives way to a return to the darkroom, then to dialogue,  gossip, and finally an argument Doris has with her fiance Palle (Sven Lindberg), becoming highly theatrical. This tension between magnificently modern camerawork and impressive traditional stagework characterises this and much of Bergman, who despite his enormous filmography directed an even greater number of plays. The mastery of both cinematography and staging, and of course the painfully incisive writing, can make it dizzyingly difficult to pinpoint exactly why his films are quite so powerful as they are. Continue reading

The Misfits (1961)

The Misfits (1961) is a beautiful (if hard-to-watch) elegy, not only for the American West it depicts in a slow fade into obsolescence, but also for three of its actors. Plotwise, Roslyn Tabor (Marilyn Monroe) goes through a dismissively quick divorce (for which Reno was already famous by 1931) at the start of the film. Through a divorcee friend Isabelle Steers (Thelma Ritter) she meets Guido (Eli Wallach) and then Gay Langland (Clark Gable); Steers disappears without fanfare about halfway through the film, to be replaced by Perce Howard (Montgomery Clift), met by chance en route to a rodeo. The men are outwardly tough western types, though only Gay is explicitly called a cowboy. Guido is a mechanic, a former airforce bomber traumatised both by the war and by his wife’s unexpected death. Perce (Clift) completes the trio of men, as a youth formerly destined to inherit his father’s ranch, but ousted by his father-in-law, winding up a sort of doomed protégé to Gay, who is himself waning in relevance. Along with Roslyn the four form a strange sort of family and are presumably the titular misfits, though there’s a clear parallel with a handful of horses they seek in the hills, to corral by plane, the pathetic remnants of thousands that once ran wild in the hills of Nevada. Continue reading

Down to the Bone

Several years ago I watched Winter’s Bone (2010) and thought it was quite good, opening my eyes to rural devastation in America. I read a bit about it and found out that the director, Debra Granik, had directed a film in 2004 called Down to the Bone. It aired in July on Film4 and I just got round to watching it. It shares with Winter’s Bone themes of poverty, drug abuse, and desperation, but it finds its desolation in the life of a coke-addicted mother in upstate New York, rather than in the grim family ties of the meth-addicted Ozarks.

Continue reading

Leviathan

Quite enjoyed Leviathan (2014). The Book of Job adapted to modern Russia, about losing everything one values in life and all hope for the future. Like Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry, Bergman’s Winter Light, or Akin’s The Cut, it’s about whether a life of suffering can or should be endured (when you’ve lost possessions, people, and freedom). It shares with Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Edge of the World, and Yol the stark indifference of nature to human endeavours, and with On the Waterfront, Touch of Evil, The Sweet Smell of Success (maybe even Brazil) the crippling powerlessness created by corruption. Like Sympathy for Mr Vengeance its slow takes are made even more difficult by being shot incredibly wide, and like The Searchers the worst violence takes place just out of frame, making it traumatically ambiguous and turning the audiences’ imaginations against them. It has a scene like the opening of The Grapes of Wrath that must be seen to be believed. It works on political, philosophical, religious, and personal levels as an inquest into deprivation, pain, and the meaning of life. ★★★★☆

eXistenZ

A few weeks ago I watched eXistenZ (1999). I was surprised to realize that it’s the seventh David Cronenberg film I’ve seen. Not that I’ve avoided him, but I didn’t think I’d seen that many. The first I ever saw was The Fly (1986) which I think we had on Betamax when I was young. Unsurprisingly it left a pretty strong impression on me, particularly the graphic arm-wrestling scene, but having seen it again more recently I don’t think it’s actually that great of a film. Continue reading