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May 22, 2010

Double Take

DoubleTake-196x250 Artist/filmmaker Johan Grimonprez's experimental film is a bold postmodern cinematic provocation that sets up a confluence of dualities around the Cold War era of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963) and Hitchcock's popular '60s television program "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," toward a damning indictment of U.S. politics that extends to Hitchcock's Reagan-era death in 1980. Although stylistically akin to "Atomic Cafe," Grimonprez's film is a far more entertaining and poker-faced experience. The filmmaker's carefully cloaked intentions don't fully reveal themselves until the film's post credits coda when a song by the Dead Kennedys puts things concisely in perspective. "Double Take" shows exactly how the medium is the message. Indeed, there's nothing mashed-up about the precision at work here.

Early on, in a sound studio, we see the actor impersonating Alfred Hitchcock's voice for the purpose of voice-over narration that fills in a noir inflected sub plot about the renowned director coming face to face with his double in a hotel during the "Birds" production. "If you meet your double you must kill him, or he must kill you." "By the end of the script one of you must die." There's Hitchcock's repeated definition of a MacGuffin, that plays into the cloaked political rhetoric of the era. We see Hitch and his lovely actress Tippi Hedren making their appearance on the red carpet in Cannes for the premier of "The Birds." We hear from the master that the title that was reduced from three words to two  when the first word "For" was taken out. At least that what Hitchcock tells journalists at a packed press conference. Folgers coffee commercials announcing the product "good as fresh-perked" interrupt Hitchcock's living room conversations with his television audience. We get chummy with Hitchcock look-alike Ron Burrage as he tells of his acting jobs impersonating the great master. Interspersed are clips from the famous 1959 "Kitchen debate" between then Vice President Richard Nixon with Nikita Khrushchev where Khrushchev mopped up the floor with his feather-weight Western opponent. Atom bomb tests offer an astonishingly deadly context to Hitchcock's comparatively tame film about underestimating Mother Nature. Johan Grimonprez ("dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y" - 1997) proves himself a master of the art of montage as he balances compounding strands of logic in a seemingly staggering display of seamless critical analysis. "Double Take" is an art film of the highest order. Don't miss this one.

Not Rated. 80 mins. (Five Stars)

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