Double Take

The best art imitates life, but at a slant. Johan Grimonprez adroitly proves this in his highly original film, which locates and develops thematic conjunctions between escapist entertainment and real-life horror; more specifically, between the work and images of legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock and the escalation of the cold war in the 1960s. Appropriating and reprocessing film and television images of Hitchcock, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khruschev, and others, Grimonprez expands droll generalizations about doppelgangers, guilt, and paranoia into a full-blown analysis of global politics, fear of the bomb, and the mad rush to mutually assured destruction. As public anxieties are sublimated in popular entertainment, so do they sometimes erupt in artistic expressions (such as Hitchcock’s The Birds). In addition to pinpointing the postmodern, movielike unreality of public life, Grimonprez convincingly indicates the precision with which an artist may sketch the public psyche in entertainment, and why Hitchcock still haunts our dreams.