Director Johan Grimonprez casts Alfred Hitchcock as a paranoid history professor, unwittingly caught up in a double take on the cold war period. Subverting a meticulous array of TV footage ...
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Director Johan Grimonprez casts Alfred Hitchcock as a paranoid history professor, unwittingly caught up in a double take on the cold war period. Subverting a meticulous array of TV footage and using 'The Birds' as an essential metaphor, DOUBLE TAKE traces catastrophe culture's relentless assault on the home, from moving images' inception to the present day. Written by
An ingenious montage film investigating the Cold War through the person and technique of Alfred Hitchcock
Pre-titles, the Hitchcock impersonator Mark Perry recalls Hitchcock's 'MacGuffin', the story of no consequence which precipitates the thrills of the suspense wound around it. Double Take seems to be a fantasy of two Hitchcocks, one in 1962 releasing The Birds for the first time and one in 1980, his last year, meeting one another.
Grimonprez's subject though is not this metaphysical slight of imagination. Rather it is the strangely apposite superpower leaders during the Cold War. Grimonprez has clearly seen disparate yet resonant parallels between Nixon and Kruschev, Kennedy and Kruschev - indeed, Hitchcock and Kruschev - and the relationship of all four to the prevailing media of the late 1950s, television. Once the purpose of the montage style has coalesced (the opening fifteen minutes appear wilfully aimless) I was drawn in - and not least as Hitchcock's own style often used visual montage without script or music to make its point.
In addition to Grimonprez's collage there is a some really fine music from Christian Halten. I have mixed feelings about the coda of the film running concurrently with the credits, which seems to try to position the film in a broader context about the disingenuousness of powerful leaders, invoking the 2003 war in Iraq. This seems to me to dilute its focus somewhat; additionally, the conceit of adding this to the credit sequence makes it seem like an afterthought.
Still, the aesthetic of mixing old and specially shot footage opened my imagination to think on other doppelganger films: Tarkovsky/Soderbergh's Solaris and Chris Nolan's masterpiece The Prestige, the latter of course fully consonant with Hitchcock's other invocation that on meeting one's double you should kill him lest he kill you. The premise of time-shifting across pan-global nuclear disaster also echoed that of Chris Marker's La Jetée, itself also an homage to Hitchcock's own Vertigo. And, of course, the global holocaust threatened by the facing down of world leaders so close in make-up despite their opposing political ideology is a remarkable scenario to see in a film released as CERN's Large Hadron Collider begins to search for the 'anti- matter' - the double of all visible matter - that many predict has the potential to annihilate the universe.
The film is crucially not without wit. I'll never buy Folgers instant coffee should it still exist. You'll need to see this fascinating conflagration in order to find out exactly why. 7/10
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