Biopic reconstructs the trajectory of Elvis Presley and exposes contradictions

posted on 07/14/2022 06:00


(credit: Warner Bros/Disclosure)

In each dive — whether in the construction of a personal life, in the representation of creative domain or in the search for musical roots, the feature film about Elvis Presley requires a huge load of flashes. At the height of elaborating the graphic identity of the myth, director Baz Luhrmann (see The great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge!) seeks a praise, around the edges, and creates a controversial cicerone for the cinematographic journey: the entrepreneur Tom Parker, a gift for the more than convincing Tom Hanks. He is almost the soul of the film starring Austin Butler, an actor suited to the role of the singer, in his youth, fueled by the heroic figures of the comics and by the connection with gospel, R&B and country. Absorbed and surrounded by singers from Mississippi, in the film, Elvis remains in the room, with no trace of cultural appropriation, for sharing the “spirit” opposed to the racism prevailing in the state in which he was raised, still in the 1940s.

Even without “being hairy”, Elvis contributed, in the best of senses, to the effervescent juvenile delinquency, by causing numbers seen in Baby let’s play house and daring, with the initial “girl makeup”, oily hair and pink clothing, all framed by the impressive direction of photography by Mandy Walker. An antidote to repression, Elvis appears as a forbidden fruit, and he presents himself, shining, on a bridge to popular culture, to which he contributed with the recording of more than 700 songs, and projected himself as a solo artist of unparalleled achievements. In an age of repugnant myths, Elvis destabilizes, mocking oppression, and coordinating animalistic swaying, with suggestive swaying. From an audience perspective, in a Hawaiian show (via satellite), Elvis, in the 1970s, was seen by more than 1 billion people, years after conquering the Americans, to the sound of It’s all right.

The key to Baz Luhrmann’s film is precisely the priority for movement, and, in clipped frequency, the editing of the feature, by the duo Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond, calls for a screen full of mosaics to encapsulate phases of Elvis’ life. In the plot, who gives molds to the Elvis product is Tom Parker — the role of Hanks, who, in the movies, handled puppets in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019). Now, the eternal Forrest Gump assumes, in the plot, the coordination of the formatting of a star packaged for the media: he touches on merchandising, enforces prohibitions of the star “moving the hips”, gathers sponsors and architects the national distribution of the star. In short, as he admits, he poses as the “villain of the story”. It is worth remembering that, versed in the backstage of the amusement parks, Tom Parker applied the “art of illusion” to optimize the singer’s career, for whom he became a father figure, in moments of fragility. Easy prey, given his immaturity, Elvis, alone and lost, has his bursts of youthful convictions, when he sums it up: “I can be amazing.”

Elvis, the film, has extra points, when he questions what “would be privileges” of the sixties era (such as, for example, access to places reserved “only for whites”). In a brilliant scene, still young, the protagonist spies, through a gap, gigantic black artists and even enthusiasts of lively Pentecostal services. It foreshadows the journey of the man who was accused of breaking the law of segregation. Another care is to give voice to figures like Little Richard (Alton Mason) and BB King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and to bring Elvis into initiatory strongholds such as Beale Street and Club Handy (Tennessee). Enhanced even by animation sequences, the film takes advantage of Austin Butler’s talent (whose voice is merged with Elvis’s), in interpretations of Are you lonesome tonight?, Blue suede shoes and Heartbreak Hotel. And there is still reverence for figures inseparable from Elvis’ career, such as singers Big Mama Thornton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

heart and soul

Some metaphors come ready-made in the film, which, according to the narrator Tom Parker, ends a journey of love. Olivia DeJonge plays, briefly, ex-wife Priscilla. In an expressive panel, the feature still explores the reflections of the culture of fear that decimated personalities such as Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedy brothers and Sharon Tate. In one of the strongest moments of the feature (alongside the singing of Unchained Melody, with the real artist), Elvis presents himself with the happiness of rediscovering matrices of spirituals, when defending If I can dream. And he celebrates, by the way, a phrase heard by a reverend: “When things are too dangerous to say; sing.”

Stuck at the International Hotel (Las Vegas), Elvis, in the film — after giving backstage footage of episodes from his stints in the military service and Hollywood — embraces the spiral that consumes him absolutely (it is worth remembering that he died in 1977). At a dead end, he longs to travel far. The lecherous symbol of satisfaction leaves, capable of affronting the insolence used in the performance of Trouble, and talent enters the scene, clouded, liquidated by inner phantoms and emptied of dreams. Better, then, to fix the best slice of the film: when, before being swallowed, in the delivery of excessive “love”, for what the narrator demarcates, Elvis took great care in subverting the return, in a Christmas special that marked an epoch and revalidated the artist , died, aged 42, after a heart attack with substance implications that, to date, have not been fully defined.

  • Yola plays singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe

    Yola plays singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe
    Photo: Warner Bros/Disclosure

  • Tom Hanks and Austin Butler on the Scene: High Society

    Tom Hanks and Austin Butler on the Scene: High Society
    Photo: Warner Bros./Disclosure

Other premieres

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Ho Chi Minh’s Rio de Janeiro (2022)

Set at the beginning of the 20th century, Claudia Mattos’ feature resorts to the memory of Faca Cega’s grandson, a prominent figure in the Revolta da Chibata. On a ship, he would have forged ties with Vietnamese leadership still oblivious to notions of socialism. But, not everything is true in this film that houses even interviews of dubious content.

Flammable Girl (2019)

The film signed by Elisa Mishto reveals the influence of Julie, who architects a life without defined goals or demands for efforts, in a girl quite resigned to the social roles that, apparently, she would have accepted.

Crimes of the future (2022)

Lea Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart star in the film by veteran David Cronenberg. The plot revolves around mutations and economic implications brought about by the implantation of synthetic vital tissues, in a new type of human revolution.

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