Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Double Take" makes all of Hitchcock's films into a metaphor for the Cold War

Director Johan Grimonprez  gives us a great satire of the whole Cold War and “military-industrial establishment” mentality in his documentary “Double Take” (2009), where he presents Alfred Hitchcock as a history professor (Ron Burrage), presenting news reels of the entire Cold War period in double takes against his own films, with particular use of the metaphor in the 1963 film “The Birds” and, later, “Topaz”.

The early part of the film has a Vice President Nixon  meeting Khruschev, and the ante gets upped with Sputnik and then with Kennedy’s election and the Bay of Pigs, and then the Berlin Wall crisis.  The United States, around 1961 or 1962, still had enormous superiority in quantity of ICBM’s and had them set up in Turkey.  The US, according to the film, seriously considered a pre-emptive strike in mid 1962. But them we know the history that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.   Duck and cover.  (I didn’t see any quotes from “The Atomic Café”, but they would fit.)

The news reels, mostly black and white, have a wonderful grainy quality about them. 

In the midst of all these “double takes”, Hitchcock talks about the fact that most people could not accept the presence of a dopplganger.   If there are “two of us”, that’s one too many.  What about identical twins?  Just don’t ask the Winklevii.

At the very end, after Hitchcock’s passing in 1980 and Reagan’s ascendancy, with Star Wars, there’s one more bit of spoofery.  Reagan is presented as saying that an extraterrestrial enemy would draw us all together, and other politicians are admitting there is plenty we know that we don’t know.

This satire (from Kino and Soda Pictures) is well worth renting or watching online.  Indeed, it is much more “tongue-in-cheek” than Sony’s “The Fog of War”.

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