“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.

Hitch’s quickie, less extravagant follow-up to the great Rebecca. He didn’t quite get the cast he wanted, ending up with Joel McCrea (just before Sullivan’s Travels), the poor man’s Gary Cooper, and Laraine Day (of the Dr. Kildare movie series), the poor man’s Barbara Stanwyck. A wartime spy flick, rather stiff with loose and uninteresting parts but a few great thriller setpieces to balance them out. Katy and I started it for being a TCM Essential, but only I saw the second half.

Joel, Laraine, and returning from Hitch’s Rebecca, Mr. George Sanders:

Take it away, TCM:

Official U.S. policy was still one of strict neutrality. Despite the fact that the British government urged their most famous native, Alfred Hitchcock, to remain in America during this time, the director desperately wanted to contribute to the British war effort so he sought out a property that would allow him to make a pro-Britain statement. The subsequent production, Foreign Correspondent, is the story of an American correspondent in Europe who becomes committed to the fight against fascism during his investigation of a kidnapped Dutch diplomat, a situation that requires him to travel from London to Holland.

I’d say Joel was more committed to following a hot story than to fighting fascism, but he certainly gets caught up in it, leading to a fantastic Great Dictator speech into a radio mic at the end as air-raid sirens howl, possibly the most thrilling last-minute ending to a Hitchcock film I’ve seen.

Van Meer, an Armin Mueller-Stahl-looking diplomat, knows a secret clause within a peace treaty that could help the other side when war breaks out, a macguffin that I never fully understood, but that’s why he’s kidnapped and tortured by baddies. Joel is present for VM’s assassination (my favorite scene, above), but smells a rat because the old man, usually very sharp, doesn’t recognize Joel although they shared a cab the previous day. In fact, a lookalike was murdered so nobody would search for the real VM. Joel follows the killer to a windmill for a fantastic sequence of hide and seek, then escapes from killers sent to his hotel room by first crawling out the window then using a comic room-service gag, is later assigned a bodyguard who tries to push Joel off a high building but falls off himself, and finally I was tuning out and didn’t follow exactly what led to the climactic plane crash, a miniature version of Lifeboat.

I read through D. Cairns’ post on the film looking for a great quote to steal, but they’re all great quotes, so I must instead link to the full article.

“Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire; it tells you what to desire.”

With his focus on the “traumatic dimension of the voice… which distorts reality”, I must believe that narrator Slavoj Zizek, with his heavily accented voice, is watching and interpreting slightly different versions of these movies than the ones I have seen. After all, I watch films and he watches “fillums”.


A few bits: the three levels of Norman Bates’s house representing the id / ego / superego… the power of the voice represented by Dr. Mabuse… “Music is potentially always a threat”… a look at the intersecting fantasies in Blue Velvet, and the related horror themes of Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive.

Calls a scene in The Piano Teacher “the most depressive sexual act in the entire history of cinema.” To think I once showed that movie to my girlfriend’s parents!

Wish Katy had finished watching this with me, could’ve helped defend my position on David Lynch movies. And for stupid cinephiles like myself, who love Lynch movies (and The Piano Teacher, and Eyes Wide Shut, and Blue) but get lost in their images and atmosphere without thinking too hard about their psychological implications, he handily explains the stories and characters from a psych point-of-view.

“I think that flowers should be forbidden to children.”

The movie might teach the rewards of closely analyzing a few great movies instead of trying to watch every potentially great movie. This is a lesson I will not be following. Maybe one day…

I feel so vindicated that he picks Alien Resurrection as a film worth discussing. When oh when will that gem get its due? Only the second of the series (after the Ridley Scott original) to count as a horror film, plus it’s good sci-fi and an innovative sequel/reboot that hasn’t been matched since (well, maybe those Chucky movies).

“All modern films are ultimately films about the possibility or impossibility to make a film.”

He compares Cecil B. DeMille to the Wizard of Oz to the mystery man in Lost Highway.

“In order to understand today’s world, we need cinema, literally. It’s only in cinema that we get that crucial dimension which we are not ready to confront in our reality. If you are looking for what is in reality more real than reality itself, look into the cinematic fiction.”

Man and woman are contestants on game show, go back to her place after. She argues with her ex-husband in the evening, her “sister” in the morning, then her “sister” kills the man with a big knife. Neighbor Reporter sees the killing, bring the cops, they don’t believe her. She hires private eye, then investigates on her own. Finds out woman had siamese twin who died. Gets trapped, brainwashed at woman’s ex-husband’s suspicious psychiatric house, then twin kills doctor/ex-husband. Cops now believe brainwashed reporter, but she won’t help them anymore, only repeats that there was no body because there was no murder.

Amazing that in such a hitchcock-referential movie, IMDB and I can only think of three direct sources:
Rear Window, for the obsessive voyeurism
Rope, for the body in the couch that everyone walks around and sits upon
Psycho for the killing the “main character” 30 minutes in and switching focus to someone new, and for all the psycho-babble.
I guess Sisters just intensifies the sources, makes you all-too-aware of the references if you’ve seen the original movies. Strange then that Sisters itself is getting a remake.

Best visual gag: the cake decorator tool, which in close-up looks like a long dagger dripping blood.

Has that extreme-70’s-interiors look and red red fake blood of the early David Cronenberg movies sometimes. Cronenberg must’ve seen this at some point before making Dead Ringers.

Love the Bernard Herrmann score, love the split screen scenes. Movie’s far from a perfect thriller, but it’s definitely satisfying. Great, great ending (private eye on phone pole still watching the couch at a train station).