Movies: Double Take * *
Johan Grimonprez has a background in video art installations, and watching Double Take you're unlikely to forget it. Part-documentary, part-obfuscatory drama, but in the end unsatisfyingly neither, Double Take uses the films and persona of Alfred Hitchcock as a launching pad for a freeform voyage through the 60s. Using an impressive array of film and news clips, snatches of Hitchcock interviews and contemporary TV ads, Grimonprez mulls over Cold War politics and the early years of television using a supposed incident from Hitchcock's life as his film's dramatic hook.
In 1962, just after the release of The Birds, Hitch (voiced by actor Mark Perry and played by Hitchcock double Ron Burrage) has a decidedly unsettling experience when he's called to the phone at the studios and comes face to face with his older self. This older Hitch spooks the great director by gently mocking his work and intimating that his life will end in failure. Cheery stuff, and what if anything does it have to do with the news reels of Khrushchev jousting with Kennedy and Nixon? Not much, if you ask me, and Grimonprez's supposedly overarching thesis about doubles in deadly opposition seems wafer-thin at best.
It has to be said that the way he blends and plays with images is at times sublime, but it's empty beauty, and what humour there is comes courtesy of sly old Hitch himself, in clips from his 60s TV show. And, overall, Grimonprez's attempt to link Hitchcock's stubbornly psychological and inward-looking art to the terrifying thermonuclear geopolitics of the time is futile, and redundant.