Using the Hitchcockian term “MacGuffin“, a fictionalized tale of the Master of Suspense himself encountering with a double and footage from the beginning of the Cold War: this interesting documentary reflects upon communism, television and how history repeats itself. Reflective without being too pretentious. It exposes its ideas so that you join them like a puzzle.
An intriguing fusion of the Cold War, a crime story "featuring" Alfred Hitchcock and his double, old advertisements, politics, and a couple of other bits here and there - the result is surprisingly pleasing. The narration connects all the odd elements of the mix in a quite seamless way and nicely fits into the "Hitchcockian" realm. It's a surreal mystery...
What if History, specially the Cold War-era, was a movie directed by Sir Alfred Hitchcock? Well, that’s precisally what Double Take seems to be. However, Johan Grimonprez’s film about dopplegangers based on a Jorge Luis Borge’s essay is much more than that: it’s a playful cinematic examination of time, history, memory, ideology and, of course, Alfred Hitchcock. A wonder.
DOUBLE TAKE is more hybrid film than documentary proper, essentially a modulated assemblage that feels felt into existence. Impressionistic in that sense and also funny-poetic. Convergences and associations are often opaque or just plain strange or resistant of traditional hard-and-fast sense-making. Grimonprez has been down this road before. He is the next great found footage artist after Craig Baldwin.
An ode to the unsolved crimes that shall always fascinate the world, every crime story recalled like a love story, as the voice over says...the glamour, the suspense, the frenzy of action that ride cleanly over the tragedy; a world in thrall of its own crafty narratives; the world’s domestic crimes of passion, the associations multiply...politics and philosophy meet in the genre of the murder mystery
Director Grimonprez and scripter Tom McCarthy have crafted a lovely puzzle box of a film using archival footage splicing together the cold war, Alfred Hitchcock, old Folgers commercials and more into a clever narrative. For the film and history buff a delight if one can keep one's tongue firmly in cheek.
Grimonprez and McCarthy are a couple of very knowing characters, so it's no surprise that they made such a knowing film together. Still, as amusing and clever as their cold war critique/pastiche/piss-take consistently is, it nevertheless feels a bit forced and faded, as dated in its way as the Folgers ads it recurringly mocks. Not quite fresh-perked, this cuppa postmodernism.
Barely narrative but still engaging, this deft and subtle bit of collage blends historical footage of the cold war, space race and Cuban missile crisis with Hitchcock's The Birds, television shows and advertisements, a pseudo-interpolated Borges short story and a credit roll that rapidly struggles to suggest little has changed since Sputnik went up. Utterly timely but a bit difficult and only moderately rewarding.
I'm not exactly sure what the hell was supposed to be going on here but once I was no longer disoriented I kind of enjoyed it. Double Take definitely got an emotional reaction out of me (ganking the score from Psycho did most of the work) and by the end I didn't mind any of the nonsense along the way.
Grimonprez' meta-doc has prelingerian mood. There's also a bit of Paul Virilio - e.g. media and war, the discussion on what matters more, space exploration or television (obviously, television: => as we all know popular culture killed Communism in the Eastern block). Good stuff.
It gets off to an uneasy start, trying to interweave conventions of the archival documentary with post-modern pontificating. But eventually does coalesce into a very engrossing experimental work, though some elements are more compelling than others. Flawed, but fascinating.