The pasteurized MGM treacle is 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 camera movement. The scramble for the wedding license gently adumbrates Kafka, the comically rushed ceremony is redeemed by spiritual vows improvised in an empty cathedral and the pantomimed satisfaction of morning-after consummation.
If Minnelli’s aesthetic vision is so exact that New York City comes to be as the internal gears of a clock, he never subsumes the raw and complex emotions of the melodrama, with its deft mixture of idealistic love and realistic, mature caution, into a clinical masterclass. A bit too timely for a crowd then itching to move beyond the solemn reminders of wartime, The Clock is nevertheless one of Minnelli’s great, lasting achievements...
Perhaps the ultimate case where an auteur’s ostensibly least characteristic work also happens to be their best. The Clock is as insular as Minnelli’s musicals, but its comparatively stripped-down aesthetic makes it the most interesting case study for the usually bombastic director. As always, Minnelli’s control on an absolutely perfectly flowing mise-en-scène is perennially felt, employing the most stunning long takes seen in Classic Hollywood outside of Ophüls.