Alfred Hitchcock Meets Jorge Luis Borges Borges in Cold War America: Watch Double Take (2009) Free Online

In 1962, while shoot­ing The Birds, Alfred Hitch­cock gets a phone call. Or rather, he’s informed of a phone call, but when he makes his way off set he finds not a call but a real live caller, and a thor­ough­ly unex­pect­ed one at that: him­self, eigh­teen years old­er. Beneath this encounter — in a room the Lon­don-born, Los Ange­les-res­i­dent Hitch­cock rec­og­nizes as a hybrid of Chasen’s and Clar­idge’s — runs a cur­rent of exis­ten­tial ten­sion. This owes not just to the imag­in­able rea­sons, but also to the fact that both Hitch­cocks have heard the same apho­rism: “If you meet your dou­ble, you should kill him.”

So goes the plot of Johan Gri­mon­prez’s Dou­ble Take, or at least that of its fic­tion­al scenes. Though fea­ture-length, Dou­ble Take would be more accu­rate­ly con­sid­ered an “essay film” in the tra­di­tion of Orson Welles’ truth-and-fal­si­ty-mix­ing F for Fake. As Every Frame a Paint­ing’s Tony Zhou reveals, Welles’ pic­ture offers a mas­ter class in its own form, illus­trat­ing the vari­ety of ways cin­e­mat­ic cuts can con­nect not just events but thoughts, even as it expert­ly shifts between its par­al­lel (and at first, seem­ing­ly unre­lat­ed) nar­ra­tives. Dou­ble Take, too, has more than one sto­ry to tell: while Hitch­cock and his dop­pel­gänger drink tea and cof­fee, the Cold War reach­es its zenith with the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis.

We call Hitch­cock “the mas­ter of sus­pense,” but revis­it­ing his fil­mog­ra­phy expos­es his com­mand of a more basic emo­tion: fear. It was fear, in Dou­ble Take’s con­cep­tion of his­to­ry, that became com­modi­tized on an enor­mous scale in Cold War Amer­i­ca: fear of the Com­mu­nist threat, of course, but also less overt­ly ide­o­log­i­cal vari­eties. Hol­ly­wood cap­i­tal­ized on all of them with the aid of tal­ents like Hitch­cock­’s and tech­nol­o­gy like the tele­vi­sion, whose rise coin­cid­ed with the embit­ter­ing of U.S.-Soviet rela­tions. Even for a man of cin­e­ma forged in the silent era, the oppor­tu­ni­ty of a TV series could hard­ly be reject­ed — espe­cial­ly if it allowed him to poke fun at the com­mer­cial breaks for­ev­er quash­ing his sig­na­ture sus­pense.

Alfred Hitch­cock Presents, its name­sake announced upon its pre­miere, would com­mence “bring­ing mur­der into the Amer­i­can home, where it has always belonged.” But along with the mur­der, it smug­gled in the work of writ­ers like Ray Brad­bury, John Cheev­er, and Rebec­ca West. Dou­ble Take also comes inspired by lit­er­a­ture: “The Oth­er” and “August 25th, 1983,” Jorge Luis Borges’ tales of meet­ing his own dou­ble from anoth­er time. Its script was writ­ten by Tom McCarthy, whose Remain­der appears with Borges’ work on the flow­chart of philo­soph­i­cal nov­els pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture. How­ev­er many dif­fer­ent Hitch­cocks it shows us, we know there will nev­er tru­ly be anoth­er — just as well as we know that we still, in our undi­min­ished desire to be enter­tained by our own fears, live in Hitch­cock­’s world.

Dou­ble Take will be added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More

Relat­ed Con­tent:

16 Free Hitch­cock Movies Online

Hitch­cock (Antho­ny Hop­kins) Pitch­es Janet Leigh (Scar­lett Johans­son) on the Famous Show­er Scene

1000 Frames of Hitch­cock: See Each of Alfred Hitchcock’s 52 Films Reduced to 1,000 Artis­tic Frames

Men In Com­mer­cials Being Jerks About Cof­fee: A Mashup of 1950s & 1960s TV Ads

How Orson Welles’ F for Fake Teach­es Us How to Make the Per­fect Video Essay

A Flow­chart of Philo­soph­i­cal Nov­els: Read­ing Rec­om­men­da­tions from Haru­ki Muraka­mi to Don DeLil­lo

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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