Sunday, July 31, 2011


So as discussed on Thursday, I went to LACMA on Thursday night to watch part of The Clock, Christian Marclay's compilation of thousands of moments featuring clocks from the history of cinema, comprising a 24-hour, real-time film. It started at 5 p.m. on Thursday and finished at 5 p.m. yesterday.

I'd talked about going at some ungodly hour, like 3 a.m., just for the surreal qualities of being in a museum, watching a movie, at 3 a.m. Traffic would also be non-existent, and as a third benefit, the screening would probably be pretty sparsely attended.

But my wife said she'd prefer it if I went earlier, explaining that she'd feel less bad about having me baby-wrangle before work if she knew I hadn't just come home an hour earlier. We settled on midnight to 1 as a compromise. I didn't care, really -- I just wanted to go.

As I was driving over, I projected my arrival time to be about quarter to midnight. I remember consciously wondering whether I should wait to go in, so I could do exactly one hour's worth of the movie, from midnight to 1. One hour was all I needed -- after that size sample, where do you draw the line between one and 24? And I thought I'd have the luxury of being anal, of walking through the doors at 12:00:00 and leaving at 1:00:00. But then I decided that if Marclay used New Year's movies as his midnight clock, it might be fun to see the minute or two leading up to that.

Um, yeah, right.

When I got there, I could tell almost immediately that it was a clusterfuck. I expected the streets near the museum to be devoid of cars, making parking easy. I did park on the street, but it was in the only available spot I could see. And looking over at the museum, I saw not one but two large crowds of people waiting -- one along an interior courtyard wall of the museum, and one on the wall that runs along the street. In between there was a gap and a security guard managing the flow. I estimated the number of people to be around 200. I shouldn't be surprised -- KCRW was advertising it pretty much every hour of the day for at least a week leading up to it.

So the entry process seemed pretty straightforward -- someone leaves the theater, someone else gets to go in. But in the five minutes I was waiting there, I didn't move forward once. I discussed the prospects of our admission to the group of twentysomething hipsters standing in front of me, and they guessed it would be a 45-minute wait. I thought they were crazy. My own estimate was more like three hours.

"I guess we should have come at like 4 a.m.," I said.

"Oh, I hear that 4 a.m. is the best part of the movie," said one of the women in that group.

Darn it.

So I was back at my house inside of an hour after I'd left. I didn't see any of The Clock, but I probably had a better day at work yesterday than I would have if I had.

Last night my wife and I discussed our prospects of ever getting to see The Clock -- any part of it. And in fact they seem somewhat grim. I'm sure it will play again in Los Angeles, perhaps multiple times, perhaps annually. But if it draws this kind of interest every time, a dead-of-night screening would really be the only way to do it -- and even then I bet the wait would be at least 15 minutes. Also, normal people like us would be competing with all the actors and other industry folk with irregular schedules, who don't really care what time they're awake and what time they're asleep. Perhaps the line would have been just as long at 3 or 4 a.m.

I figured if there's a phenomenon like this, someone someday will try to capitalize on it through a DVD release, a 12-disc set or something. Ah, but there's a problem with that too. Marclay uses so much copyrighted material in this movie that trying to get clearance on it would be a nightmare, if not actually impossible. Only by showing it for free, as LACMA did, are the copyright violations acceptable. Try to make a profit, any profit, on it, and suddenly you owe a lot of studios a lot of money.

Well, at least now I'm ready -- I know what to expect next time.

I've still got you in my sights, Clock. We'll have our date with destiny.

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