The Clock

The Clock

"Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus!" (Whitman) The virginal vision of the city is a loving studio evocation, Vincente Minnelli promptly makes himself at home with the rhythmic bustle of Penn Station. The soldier (Robert Walker) is an Indiana kid in New York, the office secretary (Judy Garland) plays guide, confidante, and, finally, soulmate over the course of the two-day furlough. Their tour of parks and museums pauses long enough to take in the nocturnal hum of the setting—train whistles and sirens in the distance, chorales rising as the lovers move toward their first embrace and kiss, filmed like planets stirred into monumental orbit. "Let's allow our emotions free rein, shall we?" The skyscrapers are daunting, but the metropolis is populated by such marshmallows as James Gleason's avuncular milkman, whose sleepy-hour route gives the couple a chaste chance to bond and a glimpse of cozy matrimony. (Keenan Wynn's single-take, choleric ballroom rant is a welcome drop of vinegar.) Pasteurized MGM treacle transformed by Minnelli's Italianate sense of vulnerability, which even weaves a thread of Murnau into the tapestry: Garland and Walker riding the subway and being separated by the surging crowd as they switch cars, one unbroken movement. (Vide Some Came Running for the ominous version.) The scramble for a wedding license gently adumbrates Kafka, the rushed ceremony is redeemed by spiritual vows improvised in an empty church (more Murnau) and the pantomimed satisfaction of morning-after consummation. The line of consequences (at its purest in Linklater's Before Sunrise-Before Sunset double-bill) can't diminish the original poignancy of evanescent romance braving urban landscapes and wartime ruptures, captured by a gliding-craning-caressing camera.