I expected the masses to rush the MFA. This was, after all, the “must-see” piece of Boston’s contemporary art scene. But as I approached the Fenway wing’s doors just before midnight, I was pretty sure I’d come to the wrong entrance. I had expected lines of eager visitors desperate to get in. Instead, a lone man exited. He had watched a two-hour chunk earlier in the evening, dropped his phone in the gallery, and returned to retrieve it.
As a work, I found “The Clock” mesmerizing, captivating, all those words the smart people have been using to describe Christian Marclay’s masterpiece. That was for the first hour. As the morning wore on, I began to wonder whether it was worthy of the intense praise (and cash) that has come the artist’s way or if, in a way, the piece is a one-trick pony.
Another mood-ruining thought: How on earth did Marclay get such wonderful picture quality if he didn’t license these clips? Those who go legit – and pay millions, in some cases, for licensing – get nice, high-definition tapes supplied. I had figured, coming in, that he was working off standard DVDs.
With my laptop handy, my Google-trained brain couldn’t stop. I found myself checking IMDb whenever an unfamiliar clip with a familiar face (Andie MacDowell in a horror flick?) flashed over the screen. I felt great joy and then shame when I recognized a John Candy moment but redeemed to watch the wallpaper drip in a genuine, smart-guy film, “Barton Fink" (below right).
I began to doze and tweet and doze more, which could have been a disaster but, looking back over my transcript, went all right. (Sorry for the spelling errors, followers.)
When it was over, I did feel sad that I had to go home. But it was 4:13 a.m. and I’ve got a family. Which reminded me that I wish my family – at least Carlene and our daughter, Lila, 9 – could have seen this thing. What would they make of it? Would they be blown away, annoyed, asleep?
The next day, after I woke up, I couldn’t resist e-mailing Ilona Anderson. She’s the artist, teacher, and gallerist whose complaint, to me, about the MFA’s original unveiling plan, helped spark a Globe story that annoyed the museum and led to the special screening. I wanted to make sure that she had showed up after making a stink. She had. Anderson spent 10 hours in the gallery over two days.
Then I called Dawn Griffin, the MFA’s always fair head of publicity. I’ve worked with her for almost a decade and I’m not sure we’ve disagreed on anything as much as my “Clock” story. I know she believes that I got the story wrong and the complaints of a few got overblown. I’d argue that doing the story itself was a no-brainer. When folks raise complaints, our job is to listen. But we agreed on one thing: It was surprising how few people showed up for the special screening.
After we got off the phone, I thought of a group of college kids who had shuffled into the gallery sometime after 2 a.m. A dude in orange sneakers loudly proclaimed, “This is so cool.” They didn’t stay all that long but they were there.
And so was I and so was the guy next to me, bent over and napping at times, watching intently at others. So maybe it was okay if this first screening didn’t mark the start of a BLOCKBUSTER! Blockbusters are everywhere. Wasn’t it somehow more satisfying to be part of the special club that got to see “The Clock” for the first time?
About Movie Nation
ContributorsTy Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.
Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.
Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.
Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.
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