'The Clock': Watching A 24-Hour Film

The Venice Biennale is one of the most important contemporary art events in the world. This year, the top prize went to The Clock by Christian Marclay. It's not easy to see The Clock, because it's a film that's 24 hours long. Most museums aren't open all night, but this week the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had a special 24-hour showing. Alex Schmidt went to see some people willing to stay up all night for the sake of art.

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SCOTT SIMON, host: The Venice Biennale is one of the most important events in the contemporary art world. And this year, the top prize went to "The Clock," by Christian Marclay. It's not easy to see "The Clock." It's a film that's 24 hours long. Most museums aren't open all night. For that matter, most diners aren't. Since May, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has been showing "The Clock" during regular business hours. And this week, the museum had a special 24-hour showing.

Alex Schmidt went to see some people who stayed up all night for the sake of art.

(SOUNDBITE OF A BELL)

ALEX SCHMIDT: It was 5 P.M. when the 24-hour viewing of The Clock started at LACMA. The film is made out of bits and pieces of hundreds of famous movies, and the bits and pieces match real time. So at 5 P.M., you see stuff that usually happens around that time - people starting dinner, commuting home from work. When it was 5:10 P.M. in real life, you saw a clip of a clock from the movie "The Usual Suspects" showing 5:10 P.M. And this happens in the film for every single minute of the day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE CLOCK" AND LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: Janet Carley was one of the people rushing to take her seat. Do you plan to stay for the full 24 hours?

JANET CARLEY: You know, I'm thinking about it. I'm planning on it, we'll see.

SCHMIDT: You're planning on it?

CARLEY: Yeah. That's the game plan. We'll see. We'll see how long...

SCHMIDT: It looks like you have a full backpack.

CARLEY: Yeah.

SCHMIDT: Are there supplies in there?

CARLEY: It's like camping like in the city. It's good.

SCHMIDT: The theater was nearly packed. The artist, Christian Marclay, says he's been surprised by how many people have come out to see the film.

CHRISTIAN MARCLAY: When you're an artist, you're used to sort of making things underground. And this is just reaching a different audience. We're all obsessed with time and I think people relate to that. And of course everybody loves cinema.

SCHMIDT: Loves it so much, perhaps, that by 10 P.M., there was a line of people snaking down the block waiting to get in. Hadrian Belove was outside because he had watched the film for four hours and had to take a smoke break.

HADRIAN BELOVE: The real problem people are having when they say its grueling is it's so good that they can't stop watching it when they normally would. They keep kind of being like, one more minute, one more minute cause it's so easy. And then suddenly, it's been four hours and their mind is kind of mush. Or, you know...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: Or amazingly attuned.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BELOVE: Or amazingly attuned.

SCHMIDT: At that hour, "The Clock" shows night time scenes - people turning off their lights and getting into bed...

(SOUNDBITE OF AN ALARM)

SCHMIDT: ...dreaming, and being woken up by scary noises in the dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE CLOCK")

SCHMIDT: Only five public institutions own "The Clock," so maybe it's understandable that people wanted to try and tough out all 24 hours. But artist Christian Marclay says he hope is that the film makes people think differently about time and really, you only need a few minutes with it for that.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Schmidt.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL RINGING)

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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