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The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is right in the middle of Melbourne, on Federation Square across the street from the main train station. This vast center(re) offers a schedule of movie screenings every day, along with permanent galleries, and temporary exhibits. We spent all day there and ended up with visual overeload while completely running out of steam. It was great.

The temporary installation is a piece of performance art in which snippets of films have been spliced together to span twenty-four hours of real time, using images of clocks from movies showing the time. Do we really see that many clocks in the background of movies? And so many pocketwatches! The artist is making a commentary on time and other themes, but the clips are so short it could be an all day vimeo contest: Can you identify these movies/actors/places? The clip from The Third Man was so short that I only recognized it from the music. There’s Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, Mata Hari, everyone. We sat for forty minutes and could easily have stopped in for another hour. Just think, it goes for 24 hours like this! There are all night showings!

It’s wondrous for non-movie fanatics, I wonder what movie fans think? I’d guess they love it, so much trivia, so many details. Here’s what the Centre says about it:

The Clock is a 24-hour video installation created from thousands of clips of clocks, watches and other references to time from film and television. These are masterfully edited together and synced to the present moment in one mesmerising collage. The result is an epic journey through cinematic history as well as a functioning timepiece.

Minute by minute, hour by hour, hundreds of characters are jolted awake by alarms, run for trains, wait for lovers, or dream strange dreams. Stitched together from hours of cinematic history, The Clock gifts audiences the addictive joy of recognising favourite actors or scenes from beloved films, as well as being wildly compelling and dream-like itself.

Here’s a review by someone who watched the entire twenty-four hours.

Review of “The Clock” installation

Can you see us projected on the side of the building?

The permanent exhibit focuses on the history of the film industry emphasizing Australia when possible. There are views from old devices and lots of movie clips, lots. Silent movies, Marx Brothers, Clark Gable and Katherine Hepburn (Bringing Up Baby), but the Australians, Moulin Rouge, Cate Blanchett, producers, directors. By the time I’d looked at clips from the first silent films to the advent of sound, color, and television, I was up to my eyeballs in movie scenes. From there, the exhibit branches off into Australian TV, movies, costumes, special effects, animation, video games, and digital media. The only game I could manage was Pong–slow motion ping pong. We took a break for lunch and returned for another round. The gallery is arranged around their two big pieces, a vehicle from Mad Max, and the piano from “The Piano.” There are some places to sit when your feet start to give out, as well as a cafe and lots of outdoor seating for resting or picnicing. Amazingly, all this is free. The only charge is for screenings of full-length movies. You could spend all day looking at the exhibits and then take in a film that starts at 6:45pm. There’s even a series called prosecco + film. The ACMI is a place that really does have something for every taste and level of enthusiasm.