the clock


The premise of David Thomson’s great novel Suspects (1985) is that all the people in film noir either are related to or know each other. He fills out their otherwise abbreviated lives with what happened before, after, and during the film stories they inhabit, mingling the real and the fictional, the actors’ present role with past and future ones. Thus Vivian Sternwood from The Big Sleep turns out to be best friends with Evelyn Cross Mulray from Chinatown and, later in life, has an affair with Jonathan Shields, the Kirk Douglas character in The Bad and the Beautiful. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) from Sunset Boulevard marries the Count von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim in La Grande Illusion) after marrying Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stoheim in Sunset Boulevard), and so on. Christian Marclay’s epic work The Clock — the winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, showing at LACMA until July 31 — ratchets this narrative playfulness up several notches, with implications for how we see not only visual storytelling (movies, television), but also time itself. The Clock is a film that lasts twenty-four hours, and every minute of the day is accounted for by at least one and often several images of clocks on buildings, clocks beside beds, grandfather clocks that need adjusting, watches on arms, car radios, cell phones, CCTV time codes, video tape recorders, and all other forms of twentieth- and twenty-first century time-keeping.

more from Leo Braudy at the LA Review of Books here.