out of Five
Running time: 85
An extremely unusual film that's part documentary, part freeform essay and part art project, this is by turns fascinating and darkly funny, though the Cold War elements seem like they belong to a different film.
What's it all about?
Directed by Johan Grimonprez, Double Take is an unusual documentary that's primarily composed of delightful clips taken from Hitchcock's filmed introductions to his TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, during which he often rails against television and commercial breaks in particular. These clips are interspersed with: a series of very creepy 1950s coffee commercials (in which a series of women worry that they'll lose their husbands if they can't provide him with a good cup of coffee); historical footage from the Cold War, most notably the so called Kitchen Debate between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev; an apocryphal story about Hitchcock meeting his double from the year of his death (narrated by Mark Perry in a Hitchcock voice); and an interview with British Hitchcock impersonator Ron Burrage.
Grimonprez has assembled a wealth of terrific footage and some of the introduction clips are darkly funny and very clever. Grimonprez has deliberately chosen footage related to the theme of the double and there are also some inventive effects shots, such as a scene in which Hitchcock appears to pass his own double on the street (actually a splicing together of a cameo appearance in a film and a shot from the TV series).
The film also explores Hitchcock's idea of the MacGuffin (essentially a device that drives the plot but is essentially meaningless) and there's a nice link between the MacGuffin and Donald Rumsfeld's famous speech about “known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns” but other than that, the Cold War and Reagan era political links seem extremely tenuous and often feel like they belong to a different film (though it's a treat to watch the Kitchen Debate clip in full).
Similarly, the anecdote about the double is initially interesting but ultimately goes nowhere after a lengthy build-up, while the Burrage interview also feels like it could have been removed from the film completely without making any real difference.
In short, Double Take is an ingeniously constructed film that's ultimately something of a mixed bag – it's worth seeing for the vintage clips and the sinister coffee commercials, but the other elements never really come together in a satisfying way.
Double Take (tbc)