Forum expanded Talk and Show:
Episode 6: The Space Between Seeing and Knowing is Haunted
12.02. 10:00 Arsenal 1 (admission free)
Director Johan Grimonprez casts Alfred Hitchcock as a paranoid history professor, unwittingly caught up in a Double Take on the cold war period. The master says all the wrong things at all the wrong times while politicians on both sides desperately clamber to say the right things, live on TV.
Double Take targets the global political rise of "fear as a commodity", in a tale of odd couples and double deals. As television hijacks cinema, and the Krushchev and Nixon debate rattles on, sexual politics quietly take off and Alfred himself emerges in a dandy new role on the TV, blackmailing housewives with brands they can't refuse.
The novelist Tom McCarthy writes a plot of personal paranoia to mirror the political intrigue, in which Hitchcock and his elusive double increasingly obsess over the perfect murder – of each other! Subverting a meticulous array of TV footage and using The Birds as an essential metaphor, Grimonprez traces catastrophe culture's relentless assault on the home, from the inception of the moving image to the present day.
Excerpts from an interview with the filmmaker by Geoffrey MacNab for Flanders Image:
"In his new film Double Take, artist and filmmaker Johan Grimonprez explores familiar themes: the way television manipulates audiences; induces a sense of fear; blurs the lines between fiction and reality. (...) Double Take opens with accounts of an uncanny incident in the autumn of 1948 when hundreds of birds crashed into the Empire State Building and plummeted to the street. Next, we hear about a plane crashing into the Empire State. Hitchcock's film of TheBirds was not, perhaps, as far-fetched as it seemed. The fear felt about such freak incidences was to become more and more commonplace. Grimonprez contends that the sense of looming unease felt in the early 1960s is still with us today."
"The Birds is a metaphor for catastrophe television invading the home", Grimonprez muses. "Against, that, there is the historical backdrop of the missile crisis and the Cold War. That is a metaphor for doubles - the doubles of east and west, the political doubles of one another, both projecting fear but trapped in the same paradigm... it relates to something very contemporary - the whole business of terrorist spectacle, the war in Iraq and nuclear proliferation with Iran. They are things in the background always shimmering."
"Hitchcock tapped into the sense of dread that was in the society around him and used it to induce 'goosebumps' in his audience. Reduced to its essence, Grimonprez suggests that this dread was all about fear of "the other". The media continues to accentuate and prey on this fear. In his film, there is a fictional element too. He has recruited a Hitchcock look-a-like, Ron Burrage, famous for impersonating Hitchcock. At times, watching the film, we're not sure where the archive footage ends or the imagery of Burrage begins. Double Take also stands as a description of Grimonprez's working method, which is to question received images and to turn clichés on their head. Meanwhile, the phrase also hints at what viewers have to do to make sense of the huge amount of images they are bombarded with on a daily basis."
Belgium/Germany/Netherlands 2008, DigiBeta, 80 minutes
Script/Director: Johan Grimonprez
Story: Tom McCarthy
Editing: Dieter Diependaele, Tyler Hubby
Music: Christian Halten
Production: ZAP-O-MATIK, Nikovantastic Film, Volya Films, with ZDF and in collaboration with ARTE
Producer: Emmy Oost
Co-producer: Hanneke van der Tas, Nicole Gerhards, Denis Vaslin
Supervising producer: Doris Hepp
Johan Grimonprez, artist and filmmaker, is visiting professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York and otherwise works in Brussels. He garnered a great deal of attention in 1999 for his video collage Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, an aesthetically compelling, visually hypnotic roller coaster ride through the history of airplane hijackings, which won him "Best Director" awards at the international film festivals in San Francisco and Toronto. Grimonprez's most recent work, the short film Looking for Alfred (2005), a kind of sketch for Double Take, won the "Spirit Award" New York, the International Media Prize for Science and Art of ZKM Karlsruhe (2005) and the European Media Award 2006.