Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) set a stratospheric bar rarely reached by other filmmakers in terms of the suspense genre. Now, the legendary director gets a chance to star in a psychological thriller, albeit posthumously, courtesy of archival footage interwoven with a dizzying montage of snippets from movie classics, TV commercials and newsreels shot during the height of the Cold War.
This marvelous, multi-media mockumentary is the brainchild of Belgian director Johan Grimonprez, a faculty member at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has cobbled the assorted elements into a chilling feature draped with dread and sheer paranoia which practically defies description.
At the point of departure, Hitchcock announces in his trademark droll fashion that "If you meet your double, you should kill him, before he kills you." After all, "Two of you is one too many, by the end of the script, one of you must die."
He subsequently crosses paths with his own spitting image, played by Hitchcock impersonator Ron Burrage, and the tension is gradually ratcheted-up in the intriguing game of cat-and-mouse which ensues. Thus, the picture's title is a clever play on words which lends itself to a couple of interpretations, given that a "double take" for these purposes can be either a delayed reaction or the response of identical strangers to encountering each other, or both.
Ostensibly inspired by an actual incident which happened to Hitchcock during the production of The Birds, the bifurcated storyline simultaneously revisits the events surrounding the so-called Kitchen Summit Conference, a series of televised impromptu exchanges staged in Moscow in 1959 between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and then Vice President Richard Nixon. And yet another strand of the often mind-boggling mosaic is made up of bits from comical Folger's coffee ads in which American housewives have been edited to look like blithering idiots.
An impossible to pigeonhole production certain to generate a sense of nostalgia about a bygone era while only adding to the already lofty stature of a revered cinema icon.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 80 Minutes
Distributor: Kino International
DVD Extras: Casting audition footage, audio interview with actress Karen Black, a gallery of behind-the-scenes stills, script notes and trailers.
To see a trailer for Double Take, click here