Monday, April 8, 2013

Hands On A Hard Body (1997)

WHO: S. R. Bindler directed this documentary.

WHAT: it's a story best-known as a This American Life broadcast, but it works even better as a feature-length video where we can see the spectacle and its participants: a group of twenty Texans engaged in a contest of endurance. The one who can stand beside a brand-new pick-up truck with at least one of his or her gloved hands in constant contact with the vehicle for days longer than any of the others, fighting sleep, soreness, pain, numbness, concentration and frustration, gets to drive it home and keep it. The contest typically lasts days on end.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight and tomorrow at the Roxie at 7 & 9 PM.

WHY: So The Clock has arrived in San Francisco at long last. As I mentioned the other day, I was able to sample a little of it- about ten percent of the twenty-four-hour installation, to be somewhat precise. It's been a fascinating topic of conversation over the weekend, but I haven't yet encountered anyone here with serious plans to watch all twenty-four hours in one sitting. But I'm sure it's only a matter of time. (So to speak.) For now, The Clock is viewable only during SFMOMA's regular open hours, but there will be four all-night screenings each Saturday in May, plus a sure-to-be-popular free one on the last weekend the museum will be open before it shuts for a multi-year renovation: June 1-2. All this information is on the SFMOMA website.

What isn't on the website is information on how to attempt a 24-four-hour continuous viewing of The Clock, or if it's even really possible to do. The Clock's creator Christian Marclay has repeatedly stressed that he doesn't intend the piece to be viewed in a a single marathon session, but neither were the many paths, running from the California-Mexico border to the 49th parallel, that make up the Pacific Crest Trail originally intended to be traversed in a single excursion, yet over a hundred thru-hikers complete that journey every year. 

Any marathon required preparation. Even cinephiles used to seeing four or five feature films per day at a film festival, or taking in ultra-long experiences like Napoléon or Sátántangó, aren't used to spending an entire day and night watching a single screen. A viewing of Hands On A Hardbody might be the ideal first step in such a preparation in the form of inspiration: the participants in the contest Bindler depicts each have a game plan for their expected multi-day challenge, and a would-be The Clock marathoner will be keen to note which ones pay off and which do not. Like the documentary's contestants, New York viewer Max Nelson allowed himself periodic breaks during his 24-hour Marclay immersion. I don't know how SFMOMA's wait times (frequently updated on twitter) might impact the marathon viewer, however.  Questions of food, drink, and restroom use also become paramount, and complicated by the museum setting. One thing I suspect anyone who watches Hands On A Hardbody in preparation for The Clock will surely be thankful for is the comfortable seating provided at the Marclay installation. Compared to the standing these truck-lovers must go through in Texas, a potential Clock-watcher has it easy. 

HOW: Hands On A Hard Body was shot on video and will be projected on video.

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