Monday, 5 April 2010

double take (d. johan grimonprez)

To what extent does the ending of a film reveal the truth of what has gone before? Where some throw their ending away, Grimonprez goes to town as the credits roll on Double Take. A story which seeks to connect Hitchcock with the cold war with the notion of the double and death, ends in a flurry of images from the Cold War and beyond, the very last being Rumsfeld outlining his 'known unknown' speech. No matter how entertaining and curiously nostalgic it is to see Rumsfeld presented as the film's final image, it doesn't really seem to enhance the audience's understanding of what has gone before. If anything, it would seem to further put in question the filmmaker's understanding of what he's tried to reveal over the course of the last 80 minutes.

The theoretical basis of Double Take is the idea of Hitchcock meeting his double in a hotel room either in 1962 or 1980. This is a lovely idea, one which is strengthened by a quotation from the director stating that if you meet your double, you have to kill them before they kill you. Suspense, drama, violence - everything you need from a homage to Hitch. In theory. In practice, although a doleful voiced actor impersonating Hitchcock talks us through their meeting, not a lot seems to happen, either during or as a result of the meeting. The piece rather spuriously threads footage of a meeting between Nixon and Kruschev through the film, with the implication being that Hitchcock had something to do with the Cold War. Whilst this affords the director the opportunity to ransack archives and show the creation of the Berlin Wall, the development of advertising and its godmother, television, the exact nature of Hitchcock's connection with all this remains nebulous.

As a result, Double Take ends up feeling like a showy A-Level essay, packed full of ideas, with no real coherence or thesis connecting these ideas. Somehow, Tom McCarthy is wrapped up in all this, and the script also references Borges, but the director never seems to capture the intellectual dexterity of these writers. Rather, it's a kitchen sink piece, throwing it all in, fiction, faction and documentary. And what you end up with is Rumsfeld's known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. The latter seemingly the guiding principle behind Double Take.

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