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Nine years after its adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, Gatsby the magnificent, presented at the opening of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (Red Mill, Romeo + Juliet) is back on the Croisette with Elvis, a disproportionate and psychedelic feature film whose unfolding spans just over three decades. What it takes to tell the rise, fall and fall of a king. Either the itinerary of a frail and poor little boy from Mississippi, born in 1935 and named Elvis Aaron Presley (Austin Butler) who will become one of the most adored rock stars of his lifetime, until this day; and whose date of death, August 16, 1977 in Memphis, Tennessee, remains indelibly engraved in the unconscious of America.
Archive images, musical sequences and intimate scenes follow one another
The King, who made girls swoon and shocked parents with his suggestive swaying, joined the pantheon of American icons screen-printed by Andy Warhol. The legend has become a monument, which Baz Luhrmann is responsible for sending to the Throne Fair, to offer a sort of “greatest show in the world”. Because the director had never gone so far in delirium, aesthetic one-upmanship and narrative extravagance as in this sixth feature film which seems to demonstrate all that cinema is capable of doing and (re) to present. Circus and merry-go-rounds, reconstitution of extracts from films in which Presley played, comics (of which he imagined himself to be the hero) and archive images, musical sequences and (rarely) intimate scenes, places and times… mingle and often coexist by the magic of split-screen (split screen that can accommodate several images), to the point that we sometimes no longer know where to look.
Elvis delivers a show saturated with sounds and images, fills the eyes and ears, makes you dizzy. And this, from the first minutes of the film which transports us into the circus universe of puppets, acrobats and creatures of all kinds. Environment where began the professional career of Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk, alias “Colonel Parker”, a disreputable character but a fine sleuth. Who, under his marquee, hears the voice of Elvis and makes it his destiny. Leaving his job as a barker at the Grand Barnum to become both the mentor, the surrogate father and especially the manager of the singer. It is through this guy, who was accused of all the evils – in particular of having stolen and led the King to forfeiture – that Baz Luhrmann leads his story.
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