Tick-Tock: Christian Marclay’s “The Clock”

LAST NIGHT, very late, a friend and I ventured to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on a whim, to see what essentially was a 24-hour film montage as art piece — “The Clock,” in which time is, literally, the essence. Artist and composer Christian Marclay edited together hours and hours of film — foreign, domestic, blockbuster, art house — moments that reference time and builds a narrative constructed by bits and pieces of incidental dialogue that, more often than not, reference a specific time or anticipates what might happen when that “time” arrives.

The piece functions as a visual clock — where each hour, minute and second is accounted for. In other words, we, the audience sitting here in Pacific Daylight Time, is synced with the film’s internal clock — to the second. And so, when, say, an off-the-round number time was referenced by one of the actors, audience members checked their cellphones (and some old-schoolers like me, my watch). We were right on the nose. What a feat in L.A. to have to “go off” right on time. I was struck by the en-masse slumber party feel in the Leo S. Bing Theater on the museum’s grounds — excited but reverent. It reminded me of the old movie marathons the Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Filmex) used to throw annually more than three decades ago.

Last night, there were people who clearly were just filing in for a moment to get a sense of the concept and move on as if it were an installation under plexiglass, still others who wanted to have more complete sense of what the piece’s trajectory — and still others who were in it for the duration — with their blankets and had snuck-in snacks. We stayed about three hours and shoved off into the rain. But long enough to watch the big clocks edge slowly to midnight — and see the beautiful watch and clock faces, the filagree hands, the gorgeous clock towers — registering time, counting down our days. That run up to midnight was greeted with elated applause.

The feeling you are left with is how much time it is we think about time — how it functions in our lives as both an abstract and a tangible dividing line between present and future, success and failure, life and death, chance and destiny.

Here is a little backstory about the project and Marclay here from the BBC.

Leo Without Mardou

This is my favorite Kerouac.
The Subterraneans, the book that is. The film, I’ve never seen, though I’ve heard that it has made the rounds on TMC or some such; one night museum movie nights that I’ve missed because I was either on deadline, on assignment or on Pluto in my head. And I’m sorry.

This is a book I have returned to mostly for its raw emotion; “Leo’s” tailspin, the competing narrative in his head.

I know the film isn’t supposed to be art — and it completely takes a wrench to the story (For starters, Mardou in the book is African American and Native American; Leslie Caron who plays her, is, well, French — Quelle taboo!) But the film is a document of an era — and the soundtrack is good (Carmen McRae, Gerry Mulligan, Andre Previn)…I actually do have that, something I procured years ago on vinyl on one my digging expeditions…. So, here is a little taste that I ran into by way of listening to Terence Blanchard (who did a cover of the main theme some years back)

Ah, Leo . . . . who goes back “having lost her love and write this book”

Here are the opening credits, sadly sans soundtrack!. Shame on WMA …. This is one of those mid-Century time-capsules that few can see otherwise…

Stave 3: The Ghost of Christmas Present

I LIKE my “A Christmas Carol” pretty straight up. But the musical, Scrooge, from the 1970s with Ebenezer portrayed brilliantly by Albert Finney, makes me *really* happy for some reason that I choose not to think about deeply. Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the film at Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball (which is really from The Ghost of Christmas Past, but well, I like the Ghost of Christmas Present and his shiny head wreath a lot . . . a lot):

Sadly, though I’ve had great bosses, I didn’t ever have a boss like Mr. Fezziwig.

And a couple of staves later when Scrooge is walking with the deeply scary Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. In many ways, this song is the film’s centerpiece, which really adds to to the complexity of the musical and its message. Even as a child, I got that!

“Shangri-la, El Dorado, Sloppy Joe’s”

HAD LUNCH with a newsroom friend today and this film came up in conversation. It’s been quite some time since I saw it. The very first time was in college. I’ve seen it several times since and each time I’m left with such a complex set of feelings. Newspapers are something that I grew to love not something I felt I was destined to work in, so seeing this now has a different sort of feel to it. Below is one of my favorite scenes because of Jospeh Cotten.

Cotten is golden as Jedediah. With all that’s going on now in newspapers this is particularly poignant. Particularly the scene below. Too many versions of that one played out across the country and beyond of late.