Sunday, August 8, 2010

Movies: Double Take

Unlike Nightfall, which I saw the same night as Double Take, at the beginning of June, Johan Grimonprez's pastiche may require two month's of consideration to understand. Unfortunately, it didn't compel me to give it this kind of thought.

Perhaps my expectations were unfair. I had read about the film before, and understood it to be a collage of found footage synthesized into a plot-driven movie in which Alfred Hitchcock encounters his double, addressing his famous instruction: "If you meet your double, you should kill him." In fact, Double Take is a film-studentish riff that for some reason parallels Hitchcock's self-acknowledged demise in televisionland (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) with the televised conversations between Nikita Kruschev and Richard Nixon, and later John F. Kennedy (at which debates, unaccidentally, the availability of television in every American home is no accident). Hitchcock impersonator Ron Burrage plays himself playing Hitchcock in 1980, encountering (vintage footage) Hitchcock in 1962. They converse over a cup of tea; one finds himself poisoned and dies. Mushroom clouds punctuate the picture.

Perhaps there is interesting potential for an in-depth analysis of Kruschev/Nixon/JFK as doubles (except that they are three rather than two, Nixon is far from JFK's double, and so if Nixon were Kruschev's double, JFK could not be, and vice-versa, so. . . ), but this film does not offer any thorough analysis on the topic. Instead, in amateur fashion, it presents a number of amusing if not potentially interesting selections of footage (clips from Hitchcock's various introductions to his television program, scenes from The Birds, vintage advertisements for Folger's instant coffee, documentary footage of the Soviet and American leaders at the World's Fair) and leaves it to the audience to suss out what the connection is. Die-hard Hitchcock fans will cling to the Easter eggs Grimonprez plants along the way (look, it's a bird! Oh, isn't that Bernard Hermann? I would recognize that soundtrack anywhere!), but ultimately, the film is an artistic exercise flaccidly executed with little relevance.

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