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A staggering, mesmerising, exhausting and exhilarating experience
Perhaps the most staggering, entertaining, addictive, hilarious, mesmerising and exhausting film you'll ever see; probably all of the above in equal parts. It is part film, pastiche, port-manteau, mash-up, and a true a work of art. In The Clock you get exactly what you might expect: images of time, in different forms but all crystal clear. It is a montage of film clips of clocks, watches and depictions of times in the day exactly to the minute. The process of watching such a film is puzzling, what do you start watching, when do you stop (and if you should stop), it is the experience altered depending on what time you come in?
There is a novelty factor watching a film pieced together so precisely so that each clip flows from one to the next; the sound effects and film scores are edited so seamlessly it's hard to one where one film ends and another begins. Someone opening a door transitions to someone in another place, another era, someone steps out of an elevator of ends up of a barge down the river Seine. The film clips ranging from a second to half a minute, sometimes setting up the scene then after inter cut with several other films, returned back to the initial one with that satisfying glimpse of the clock with the time. This is a virtuosic display (if not one of the greatest) of film editing that gives you a glimpse of the staggering task at hand to the director for watching and cutting the hundreds of thousands of film together. Mr Marclay should be commended not just for the fact that was able to pull it off (taking 2 years to complete and several assistant cullers to look for clips), but do it so astoundingly into a cohesive and cogent piece of work.
This sounds incredibly tedious, a film without any plot, story, characters, running non-stop for 24 hours without repetition any explanation about each clip. It is liberating expression of what time means to us as a society and individuals. What does 7 o'clock in the morning mean to most people? Getting up having breakfast, showering, getting ready for work. 10pm is driving back 50 miles to home, on the last errand or getting ready for bed. In a way, it is a documentation of society, although, is it a fictional universe on screen, it is as real as possible to our daily lives and our routine for every each minute of the day.
After some time however a meditative mood (perhaps fatigue) started to set in, and I became less conscious of the images of time because it was always so present, and became more interested in the thematic significance of the time, at the time, whilst being bombarded with hundreds of clips hour; what most people are doing at a set time, and whether the time of day restricts us to certain activities even in a fictitious universe.
I started watching at 10pm on an all-night bender at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. They only have one 24 hour session a week, so there was an quite an audience amassing on the over-sized leather couches to transfix themselves on this curious experiment, hopefully for the long haul. Some lay on the floor, some reclined over the chairs, some brought snacks and easter eggs to kept them sustained through the night. The beauty was that one could come in and out at any time, return any day of the week and see something completely different. I stayed until 9:30am the next day (I lost track of whether anyone else had, don't think so, probably had a job to go to), sustained through the night by the unpredictably of what I would see in the next minute, next second, in a trance-like mediative state, acutely aware of the time on screen, but unconscious of the fact that I was up at 3:18 in the morning watching random clips of thousands of film across the ages.
I must mention that this is a self-confessed film buffs dream to pick out all the literally hundreds on thousands of film clips from the silent era to the past decade. From F.W Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) to some 60s or 70s film of the RMS Titanic to The Devil Wears Prada (2006). You will see some of your favourite films, and some films you will want to see, if only you could find out what they were! I am now fatigued from my almost 12-hour session but not exhausted; I am strangely exhilarated and invigorated, and eager to get the next opportunity to return to that parallel universe.
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