Short Takes: Double Take
By Chris Chang
(Johan Grimonprez, Belgium/Germany, 2009)
There’s probably nothing more Borgesian than the Internet. Thanks to Google, everything is Borgesian. Johan Grimonprez, a Belgian multimedia artist, gets a non-redundancy pass: Double Take, his first full-length feature, not only utilizes Borgesian strategies—from magic-realist tropes to labyrinthine webs of self-referential circularity—it’s based on an actual Borges story, “25 August 1983.”
The original tale tells of an impossible encounter between the Argentine writer and himself. Double Take updates the get-together: it now involves Alfred Hitchcock’s chance meeting with a doppelgänger on the Universal Studios backlot. The through-the-looking-glass conceit features uncanny voiceover, Hitchcock film and television clips, and recent video material Grimonprez shot with Ron Burrage, a professional Hitchcock impersonator. The fiction is integrated with a second thread of found footage that revisits the facts of Cold War history—the space race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Nixon, Khrushchev, the first transatlantic TV transmission, and, of paramount significance, Folgers coffee commercials. (The director may be re-creating what it feels like to be trapped in a search engine.)
Double Take is a cunning hybrid—call it a psycho-doc. Playful yet tempered with paranoia, curiously the whole thing nevertheless seems more nostalgic than cautionary. In fact, from the Grimonprez point of view, it might just be possible to gaze misty-eyed at a mushroom cloud. Or is that just me?