Thursday, April 14, 2011

No Time

In the NY Review of Books, Zadie Smith reviews a tempting film by Christian Marclay, The Clock:
In my notebook I tried to state the obvious, to get it clear in my own mind. The Clock is a twenty-four-hour movie that tells the time. This is achieved by editing together clips of movies in which clocks appear. But The Clock is so monumental in intention and design that even the simplest things you can say about it need qualification.
 The movie sounds...well, amazing. A revelatory experience, perhaps, the impels you to think. After all, there is no plot whatsoever, and I imagine each image is relatively easy to digest. So, as you watch it, you begin to think. You think about how movies portray time, about how when certain things happen, in short, you focus on details that are thought out by filmmakers but generally not noticed by film viewers.

Buried in the piece is this little conclusion, that I like:
Principles dear to Denzel—tension, climax, resolution—are immanent in all the American clips, while their absence is obvious in the merest snatch of French art house. A parsing of the common enough phrase “I don’t like foreign movies” might be “I don’t want to sit in a cinema and feel time pass.”
I think there's some truth to that, although the aversion to 'feeling time pass' isn't a reaction that one has only while watching foreign movies. But long unbroken shots tend to make people uncomfortable, especially when the camera moves very slowly. People want something to happen, and they get impatient when the camera doesn't cut. Even a film like Weekend, with it's famous traffic jam choked with carnage, tests people. It's disconcerting for a movie to move so slowly, perhaps, and our ADD sensors are finely opposed to that sort of deliberate pacing.

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