Yesterday I watched my first film at the 2009 London Film Festival, Double Take. I’ve been so busy recently that I don’t know if I’m coming or going or standing on my hands in a lake of ketchup half the time, so perhaps it wasn’t the best time to go and see a Belgian / German / Dutch co-production from the ‘Experimenta’ strand described as “part mock-documentary, part conceptual provocation” and directed by a man called Johan Grimonprez. But see it I did, and it was, unsurprisingly, quite peculiar.
I’ll attempt to describe it but anyone who’s ever seen anything remotely avant-garde knows that you have to see it for yourself to have the foggiest idea what’s going on.
Double Take intercuts scenes of Alfred Hitchcock doing his droll links from his TV series Alfred Hichcock Presents, as well as the groundbreaking trailers for his films, with newsreel footage of the development of the Cold War in the late 1950s and early ‘60s and the rise and perceived threat of Communism. In amongst all this are scenes of professional Hitchcock impersonator Ron Burrage bimbling about, and a fictional voiceover in which Hitch describes how, in 1962, he met his future self from 1980 and killed him.
All of which was like being served a dinner platter of roast beef, a telephone, four crayons and a lamppost, and was almost as baffling. However it soon became clear, even to a dunce like me, that the film was drawing parallels between the growing threat of the 'Red Menace' and the impending catastrophe due to be wrought on Bodega Bay in Hitchcock’s The Birds. As well as this, Hitch’s famous definition of suspense as two men chatting at a table, oblivious to the bomb underneath it (which the audience knows is there and so is going frantic shouting at the screen) represents the West’s fear of nuclear armageddon during the Cold War, and his ‘Macguffin’ theory is compared to the superpowers’ excuses to blow each other to cornflake-sized smithereens.
So while Double Take suggests some interesting (but hardly earth-shattering) metaphors in Alfred Hitchcock’s work, it does it in such a disjointed way that it doesn’t really satisfy as a film experience. All the stuff about Ron Burrage, the voiceover and the ‘doubles’ motif left me perplexed, but then such films are designed to leave the audience pondering, so ponder I will, and if I have a sudden revelation I’ll be sure to let you know.
Double Take is on again tonight at 8.30 at the NFT, and on Monday 19th October at 4.30 at the ICA if you fancy going along and explaining it all to me. For reasons too stupid to go into I’ve got a ticket for Monday’s show you can have if you can find me. I’m the one standing on my hands in a lake of ketchup.
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