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Time Out New York Project: Issue #766, June 3–9, 2010
Dir. Johan Grimonprez. 2009. N/R. 80mins. Documentary.
A feature-length disquisition on Cold War paranoia and its aftereffects, this muddled essay film was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ “August 25th, 1983,” in which the author meets his elder self on his deathbed. The cyclical nature of that short story—there will always be a living Borges to bear witness to the dying Borges—is transposed here to Alfred Hitchcock, who is resurrected via newsreels and the droll introductory segments to his popular television series so that he may come face-to-face with his double.
This thread unfolds mainly in voiceover, over arty shots of Hitchcock look-a-likes roaming hallways and a bowler hat rolling across the ground. In parallel, director Johan Grimonprez cuts together a discordant symphony of ’60s-era archival footage—Sputnik, JFK, the Khrushchev-Nixon “kitchen” debate—as a way of showing how the Master of Suspense’s work captured the zeitgeist, and how the zeitgeist responded by getting dumberer.
The tone is very wink-wink nudge-nudge, especially when the director makes mocking use of Folgers coffee commercials to imply that the American public has continually been sold a bill of goods. There’s some truth to the matter, but Double Take doesn’t add anything new to the discussion. It’s a neurotic treatise (culminating in a we’re-all-fucked-now excerpt from a Donald Rumsfeld press conference) that simply adds to our cultural dementia instead of illuminating it.—Keith Uhlich