Christian Marclay: The Clock at Paula Cooper in Chelsea

Christian Marclay's The Clock

Christian Marclay's 24-hour film The Clock, playing for just another week or so at the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea, is, without a doubt, the most totally brilliant things we've seen in years. Funny and engaging, consistently surprising and  creative, technically flawless, Marclay's The Clock takes a wonderfully simple idea–create a montage of clips from, literally, thousands of movies, each one depicting the minute-by-minute passage of time throughout an entire day, AND have the time on the screen coincide with the actual time in the real world, the one in which we're sitting, watching the movie–and turns it into something magical. We don't want to oversell it (we know: too late!) but, really? Marclay's The Clock is one for the ages. A true masterpiece. 

NYC businessman using a lighter to check his watch in the dark.

There is so much to love in Christian Marclay's The Clock. We spent three hours at Paula Cooper yesterday afternoon, from 3:00 until the gallery closed at 6:00, and we could have gone a lot longer… a statement which will definitely be put the test when we return on Friday evening, when Paula Cooper stays open all night long, straight through into Saturday. Anyway, The Clock uses footage from movies old and new (the most recent we spotted: Pineapple Express and Slumdog Millionaire, both from 2008), in all genres and styles, and in several (un-subtitled) languages. The majority of the scenes here, no surprise, depict some sort of watch or clock–Big Ben played a prominent role in the 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. segment–but Marclay integrates them in an astonishing variety of ways. Sometimes, for example, the time is integral to the action in the scene (a man looks at his watch, shouts out "It's 3:42… we're late!"); in other moments, a clock appears in the distance, just part of the background, irrelevant to whatever's going on. Either way, whatever's shown, or spoken, in The Clock is always the exact time in New York City at that moment! 

The Clock, showing in NYC by Christian Marclay

Marclay has a lot of fun with the concept, too. Some clocks are wrong at first, and there's a slight moment of unease as you're thinking, "wait, that clock's slow!" and then a character in the movie reaches in and adjusts the hands to the correct time. Phew. There are several hourglasses thrown into the mix, and time bombs, and many moments in which people just say the time, or even an approximate time, as in "It's already waaaaay after 4:00". And the scenes are often cleverly assembled thematically, whether by physical setting (an office door opens in a drama from the 1930s, then closes in a comedy from 1980s), or feel (there's were several tense running-in-train-stations/airports sequences). And the outstanding stitched-together score always relates to the mood on the screen, as the action heats up (especially, it seems, near the hour marks) and slows down. In fact, the pacing and editing, of both the visual and the audio, is perfect. We can't wait to go back for more. 

NYC businessman checking the time on his watch

Christian Marclay: The Clock at Paula Cooper details

Christian Marclay: The Clock will be playing at Paula Cooper until February 19, on Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., and on Fridays from 10:00 a.m., then all day and night, through until Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Paula Cooper is located at 534 West 21st Street, near 11th Avenue. The space is pretty large, and they've brought in a dozen or so exceptionally comfortable sofas, but this is a popular show, to say the least. Even at 3:00 on a Tuesday it was crowded, and by all reports it's tough to get a seat on the weekends… even at 4:30 in the morning. Admission is free. For more information, please see the Paula Cooper gallery website, here. All images above: ©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.















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