Double Take -- Film Review
PARK CITY -- In a conceit that would have tickled Hitch himself, Belgian filmmaker Johan Grimonprez spins a convoluted tale of mystery and chilly apprehension in the New Frontier selection "Double Take," weaving together Alfred Hitchcock's film and TV work with a litany of Cold War paranoia to create an obliquely derivative work that's bracingly original.
The film's conceptual, non-narrative structure will doubtless limit viewership, but with burgeoning critical support, Kino International's planned June opening at Film Forum in New York could expand to other major market art houses while the title continues to thrive at museums and other alternative venues.
Grimonprez's creation is an intrinsically cinematic amalgamation incorporating '50s news footage, movie and TV clips, commercials and the contemporary enactment of a Hitchcockian anecdote about the director meeting his double that twists back on itself to regard the peculiarly American Cold War paranoia that the British director sublimated so well in his films and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV show of the period. The film also examines the auteur's preoccupation with doubles, particularly his own portly image often seen in cameo in his movies, as well as his fondness for MacGuffins.
Grimonprez weaves together several strands to create his own paranoid thriller: Cold War-era news footage of the Soviet Sputnik launches and the 1959 Khrushchev-Nixon "Kitchen Debate," clips from Hitch's TV series and movies (in particular, "The Birds") and novelist Tom McCarthy's fictional narrative (inspired by a Jorge Luis Borges' essay), featuring Hitchcock impersonator Ron Burrage playing the filmmaker and voice artist Mark Perry providing vocals. This story strand -- about the filmmaker meeting his double during production of "The Birds" at Universal Studios under the assumption that one of them must kill the other -- binds the rest of the material together. This intersection of implied mutually assured nuclear destruction and Hitchcock's own sense of mortality contributes significantly to the film's underlying sense of unease.
Despite its many ominous implications, Grimonprez also infuses "Double Take" with sly wit, inserting scenes from the TV program showcasing Hitchcock's wry sense of humor and the exaggerated domesticity of commercials sponsored by Folgers Coffee.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Production company: Zap-o-Matik
Director: Johan Grimonprez
Screenwriter: Johan Grimonprez
Producers: Emmy Oost, Johan Grimonprez
Music: Christian Halten
Editors: Dieter Diependaele, Tyler Hubby
No rating, 80 minutes