Revelation Film Festival – Day Six

Double Take / Bunny and the Bull

After taking a day’s break from the Revelation madness, I return with another end-of-day wrap up of the festival proceedings. Seeing as there is rarely anything happening in Perth on a Tuesday night, it took a significant amount of gusto to encourage myself to head on down to The Astor for a late session of Johan Grimonprez’ Double Take (and by late, I mean 9 o’clock – give me a break, it’s Tuesday). But no, not even the prospect of an early mid-week sleep could deter me from the allure of the Revelation program, and specifically Grimonprez’ enigmatic “documentary”, which combines stock footage of Alfred Hitchcock with that of an impersonator, and casts them in a fictionalised encounter that in some way acts as an extended metaphor for the cold war.

It’s a brilliant concept. But does it pay off? Well…

Before heading into Double Take, I was warned of a particularly unusual experience. After posting my viewing preference on Twitter, I was met with a number of responses, eagerly defending or decrying the picture. Film critic Tara Judah (@midnightmovies) called it “brilliant”, whereas Hell is for Hyphenates co-hosts @leezachariah and @mrpaulnelson labelled it “a…failure” and “pretentious”. Even the mysterious @rev_film_fest tweeter called it “odd”, and suggested that only program director Jack Sargeant knew what the film was really about. Blimey. I hadn’t even seen the damn thing yet.

So, to which side of the argument do I reside? Sadly, I find myself agreeing that Double Take is indeed a failure, despite its bold intentions. The film succeeds best in reminding us just what a charming presence Hitch was, thanks to a selection of wry clips from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Double Take falters when Grimonprez attempts to contrast the impending release of the anti-avian horror flick The Birds with the threat of the cold war (with a few 9/11 allusions thrown in for good measure).

The thread of the film is a fictional tale in which an older Hitchcock from the year 1980 confronts Hitchcock circa 1962. The duo enter into an unspoken agreement, in which only one of them can survive the encounter. All the while, their meeting is positioned as an extended metaphor for the relationship between Russia and the U.S.; or Kruschev and Kennedy; or Cinema and Television. Or something like that. Double Take is indeed a technical achievement (the use of the compiled footage is remarkable), but the message is fuzzier than the live-transatlantic broadcasts attempted in the early 1960s.

Perhaps most inexplicable are the sequences in which regular Hitchcock-impersonator Ron Burrage is interviewed for …. uhh, some reason. By all means, recruit a lookalike to help tie together some of the stock footage, but must we share tea with him as he tells us about working at the Savoy? If this was a film simply about impersonators, or Burrage, certainly! Let’s have a whole film in which we sit across from him as he drinks his tea. But Double Take is very much not about Burrage. And I’m not even quite sure that it’s about Hitchcock either.

Paul King’s Bunny and the Bull also made its debut tonight. I was fortunate to have watched the film in preparation for the festival, and it remains my equal favourite of the fest so far (tied with Dogtooth of course). You can read my full review here. Blogger @notatuna tweeted after this evening’s screening: “Bunny&thebull = art class + being john malkovich + male nudity. Funniest film of #revfilmfest!” It’s hard to disagree with such concise, accurate criticism.

Discuss: Feel free to share with us your feelings on the films you’ve caught at the festival so far!

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