Double Take (2009, Johan Grimonprez)

“Time edits out as much as it records.”

There’s a story in here about the inevitability of fate, but it takes a long time to get started, then crawls in brief segments towards the end of the film – a story about Hitchcock in 1962 getting summoned to a meeting while filming The Birds and confronting himself in 1980, a few weeks before his death.

But woe unto the viewer who reads that story as the movie’s plot summary, and waits for it to finish unfolding, because all the fun is in the constant interruptions: footage of a Hitchcock body double and a separate voice actor recording their parts for the main story and just goofing around at being Alfred, semi-informative sidetracks about Hitchcock’s films (The Birds, especially), plenty of footage of the Great Man himself taken from trailers, cameos and A.H. Presents episode intros, and Craig Baldwinesque recontextualizations of cold-war stock footage and coffee commercials.

Hichcock: “Television is like the American toaster. You push the button and the same thing pops up every time.”

Inspired by a Borges story and dedicated to body double Ron Burrage, who also played Hitchcock in a mid-90’s Robert Lepage movie. Bonus: always nice to find the source material that a favorite song had sampled – the Books song with the guy saying “there it is, there it is – it’s a man’s face” is from the first live TV broadcast across the Atlantic.

Grimonprez is one of Cinema Scope’s 50 Under 50. B. Steinbruegge: “Double Take gleefully plays with the subconscious, which is fooled by impressionistic scenes that mix deep significance with sensationalism and humor.”

At Powell’s Books in Portland I came across a bunch of reasonably-priced copies of Grimonprez’s companion book Looking For Alfred, but left it behind, figuring it too heavy to carry around in luggage, then forgot to grab it when we decided to ship our books home instead.

M. Peranson in Cinema Scope:

[Grimonprez] uses Hitchcock as a mirror, for both himself and for a period of history. For what was the Cold War if not one long, painful MacGuffin? . . . Grimonprez’s enthusiasm keeps trying to break through the frame: Double Take zips and zaps like the most addictive of television shows. The film is anchored by a chronological recap of the US-USSR Cold War relationship, the time when catastrophic culture was at the point of formation.

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