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"The Clock," "Frankenstein," Bogart, More

"Christian Marclay, the wizardly visual artist, composer and appropriator has done it again, and then some," begins Roberta Smith in the New York Times. "The Clock, his latest excursion into extreme editing and radical sampling, is a 24-hour timepiece that ticks off the minutes — and sometimes the seconds — of a full day, using thousands of brilliantly spliced-together film clips from all kinds of movies. All of them feature clocks or watches or people announcing the time, or more obliquely conjure up the passage of time. Thus The Clock is also a 24-hour valentine to the movies."

"With The Clock, the movies move from passing time to telling it," writes David Velasco in Artforum. "The 'digits' of Marclay's clock are made up of scenes containing watches, alarms, hourglasses, employee time clocks, etc, culled from thousands of films made over the past hundred or so years — the course of cinema's own history. These clips are spliced together so that when a clock image flashes on-screen (or is spoken or sung about or otherwise represented), it gives the time in the time zone in which the video is played. The Clock is a machine that transforms symbols into overdetermined indexes… 'That is what cinema is,' Godard theorized. 'The present never exists there, except in bad films.' Marclay's remarkably bad film is perfectly contemporary. (It is also a time capsule, immediately dated by the latest film it excerpts.) Of course it is its very 'badness' as cinema that makes it such a compelling paracinematic — and, indeed, aesthetic — experience. Every movie has its own temporal grammar, and Marclay typically gives us just enough of a film to reveal its particular speed or pacing. By stringing together this panoply of irrational times according to a rational tempo, he makes salient the idiosyncrasies of movie time."

For Jerry Saltz, writing for artnet, "The Clock is an elliptically thrilling, endlessly enticing, must-see masterpiece." Back to Smith: "A labor of some two years, The Clock was hailed as a masterpiece when it made its debut at the White Cube gallery in London last fall. Now it is ensconced in a theater-like installation at the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea, where it should not be missed."

 

OTHER EVENTS


"Danny Boyle and playwright Nick Dear first hatched the notion of joining forces on a version of Frankenstein back in 1990 when they were working together in Stratford on their excellent Last Days of Don Juan," writes Paul Taylor in the Independent. Plans were evidently derailed by Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but now "the project has finally achieved consummation in a sold-out, talk-of-the-town production at the National," which has begun previewing this weekend. "It brings Boyle back to his theatrical roots and it sees Jonny Lee Miller (who first worked with the director as Sick Boy in Trainspotting) and Benedict Cumberbatch (currently the teenyboppers' wet dream on account of Sherlock) alternating the roles of Scientist and Creature each night. This is a version that, true to Mary Shelley's insights, interprets the two characters as distorted alter egos: a scientifically engendered father-and-son locked in a strange, compulsive, mutual need — a need that is achingly human, on the part of the Creature, and on the part of his creator, the result of a masochistic deep denial of his paternal responsibilities."

"Both filmmaker Jenny Abel and the subject of her uproarious documentary, her father Alan Abel, will be criss-crossing the south all through February with their film Abel Raises Cain," notes Mike Everleth, who's got the dates and cities.

 

BOOK


In Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart, Stefan Kanfer focuses "particularly his cult-like status, a phenomenon that began in the early 1950s when art houses started showing his old films over and over and grew after his death as his image and reputation worked its way into all levels of our culture," writes Roger K Miller in the Chicago Sun-Times. The real value of the book "lies in Kanfer's insights into and analysis of the way that Bogart worked and how it made him 'the most perversely attractive actor in the history of cinema.'"

Holly Brubach in the NYT Book Review: "So strong is the force of Bogart's presence on screen that his performances induce a kind of double vision: we're watching Rick, or Sam Spade, or Captain Morgan, and Humphrey Bogart at the same time. Kanfer, who has written biographies of Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball and Marlon Brando, is at his best examining the ways Bogart's life and his performances converged. His WASP roots paradoxically worked in his favor in gangster roles, Kanfer contends. While Jimmy Cagney and Edward G Robinson claimed the ethnic ends of the spectrum, representing 'immigrants, or the children of immigrants, who had taken a wrong turn,' Bogart stood in for Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow — 'notorious malefactors from the heart of the heart of the country.'"

 

LISTS AND AWARDS


This year's Writers Guild Awards go to Christopher Nolan for Inception (original screenplay), Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network (adapted) and Charles Ferguson for Inside Job (documentary). The Art Directors Guild presents its awards to production designers Eve Stewart (The King's Speech, a "period film"), Guy Hendrix Dyas (Inception, "fantasy") and Therese DePrez (Black Swan, "contemporary").

Newish 2010 top tens worth perusing: David N Meyer (Brooklyn Rail) and Screen Machine.

 

IN OTHER NEWS


"Syrian filmmaker Omar Amiralay, whose documentaries exposed the social and economic life in Syria since the Baath Party took power five decades ago, died on Saturday. He was 66." Reporting for Reuters, Khaled Yacoub Oweis notes that Amiralay was "one of the Arab world's most influential filmmakers" and that just a week ago, "he signed a declaration by independent Syrian figures in support of the anti-government street protests in Egypt." For more on the life and work, see an excerpt from Insights into Syrian Cinema.

Catherine Grant notes that "word has come, via Tom Gunning and other film scholars, that Miriam Hansen, one of the true paradigm-shifters of our discipline, one of its most gifted historians and theorists, has passed away… Inspired by her lifelong study of the Frankfurt School, Hansen's work rethought cinema as a part of the public and counter-public spheres, situating it within a larger discourse of popular culture, and thus opening up the essential study of such 'periphery texts' as fan magazines, gossip columns, movie reviews, and so on. But her development of the concept of vernacular modernism also completely set the scene for the field of world or transnational cinema studies; and her historical work on cinematic spectatorship and her highly original addressing of the sensual experiences of film and new media are likewise in the process of revolutionizing their field of study (as WJT Mitchell argues in relation to 'Miriam Hansen's urging that cinema and other media be regarded as a vernacular modernism in which new theoretical propositions might be articulated while the senses are being reeducated')." At Film Studies for Free, Catherine posts a clip from a lecture and links to several essays by and about Hansen.

"The callow young cinetrix was fortunate to take Hansen's grad intro to film studies course in the screening room that served as physical evidence of the program and facilities Hansen built there as a condition of her hire [or so I've long heard]. She was as intimidating as hell; what I first learned in her classroom years ago and in her comments as second reader on my MA thesis manifests itself constantly in my teaching and thinking about film."

More from Azra Raza at 3quarksdaily.

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