Time stands still when you’re having fun.
At least it does when you’re sucked into the mesmerizing aura of “The Clock.” Multimedia artist Christian Marclay’s 24-hour film is composed of more than 12,000 time-centric movie clips. A montage to end all montages, it runs together egalitarian choices ranging from arty (Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast”) to classic (Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train”) to populist (“Back to the Future”), each showing the time of day in some way. Marclay stitched the clips together so they sync with local time wherever the film is screened.
You’d think a film featuring scene after scene of people looking at watches, alarms going off and grandfather clocks ticking ominously would get monotonous in a hurry. But Marclay has managed to create almost constant suspense, partly by bleeding music from one clip into the next so you look at your own watch and say: I can’t believe it’s still 10:28, or 10:29, and so forth.
Walker Art Center has been showing the film, which has won raves around the world including the top award at the 2011 Venice Biennale, during regular gallery hours since mid-June. The museum has stayed open all night a few times to give dedicated viewers the full wee-hours experience. The last opportunity comes Saturday, during closing weekend.
Most people determined to see the whole thing pace themselves with several visits. But if you can only make one trip, it’s highly advisable to take a nap Saturday afternoon, then attempt the midnight to 6 a.m. stretch. Just as in real life, that’s when things are most likely to get a little strange — maybe because that’s when we’re in our most suggestible, unsteady and unsure state.
The film is shown in the Burnet Gallery, darkened and transformed into a cinephile’s womb, outfitted with soft white couches you want to sink into for the long haul. (Of course, this being Minnesota, many viewers on a recent wee-hours visit were sitting stiffly, arms resolutely at their sides, so as not to accidentally brush adjacent movie buffs.)
Like the cliché about time itself, “The Clock” marches on relentlessly — yet amusingly and engagingly. By 2:30 a.m., lulled into a pleasant stupor, you no longer have the mental energy to determine whether that’s Emily Watson or Isabella Rossellini in peaceful slumber, and that’s OK because in one more nanosecond you’ll be swept into a completely different scenario. You start to feel breathless, as if your life is flashing before your eyes, but it’s actually the life of the movies, “at a glance” style.
Once you silently congratulate yourself on recognizing a scene from “Withnail and I,” the experience transcends the name game, morphing into a hypnotic study of how and why we mark time, and how it seems to fly by one moment and crawl the next.
Marian Masone, a senior programmer for the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, flew to Minneapolis to see “The Clock.” At first, she said, she constantly checked her watch, but eventually got lost in the rhythm.
“After a while, trying to immediately identify each film became the least important thing,” she said. “There’s no climax or denouement. Everything just folds into one.”
Beth Solle of Minneapolis achieved all 24 hours, in four trips. For her, the overall effect mirrored normal daily life.
“The overnight part was full of film noir, dreams and horror, shifting into people getting up and ready for work in the morning,” she said. “The film takes on its own narrative.”