Film review: Double Take

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WHAT is it about Alfred Hitchcock that inspires artists and filmmakers to appropriate his work for their own ends? Following Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot colour remake of Psycho and Douglas Gordon's video projection 24-Hour Psycho, Belgian artist Johan Grimonprez uses the master's own penchant for self-promotion for this frustrating film that's part sci-fi mindbender, part documentary and part cine-essay on the Cold War. Doubles and doppelgangers are the primary methods by which Grimonprez draws connections. Fashioning a fictional story about Hitchcock meeting his future self while getting ready to shoot The Birds (a story based in part on an essay by Jorge Luis Borgs and an apocryphal story of Hitchcock running into his double while on the Universal backlot), he juxtaposes dramatic reconstructions and choice archival footage (culled mainly from Hitchcock's self-mocking TV appearances and press junkets), with newsreel footage of Krushchev and Nixon. Drawing hazy parallels between the Cold War and the rise of consumerist culture, the film implies ideological battles are won by those best able to exploit the media in insidious ways.

What does this have to do with Hitchcock? Not much, really, he's simply this film's "MacGuffin", there to allow Grimonprez to indulge in some tedious art-school-level political commentary.

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