Baz Luhrmann, the Australian director behind stylized films like ‘Moulin Rouge!’ (2001) and ‘The Great Gatsby’ (The Great Gatsby, 2013) has made with ‘Elvis’ the first biopic of him, the most spectacular, great and audacious vision of the king of rock made so farwith a budget of 85 million dollars that leaves all other attempts in the bunch and stands as the most vibrant and noisy film of its genre made so far this century.
Neither the neat British comedy of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, nor the creative musical numbers and honesty of ‘Rocket Man’ come close to the cinematic experience proposed by the director of ‘The Get Down’ (2016), the sumptuous series about the birth of hip-hop that Netflix canceled after a season and served as a testing ground and experiments for much of what he proposes in ‘Elvis’, which although it retains the characteristic tone of a dream of glitter characteristic in his work, it increases the voltage of the emotion and the sublimation of the iconography on the narration.
And it is that several attempts have been made to dramatize the story of Presley’s life, highlighting the version with Kurt Russell by John Carpenter in 1979, also titled the same. Another more modern version was ‘Elvis: The Beginning‘ (2005) —which in its original version is also called plain Evis— with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, which kept the miniseries format of the previous one. The truth is that the great American icon of the 20th century continued without a treatment for the big screen exclusively on his life and work.
Luhrmann was hired to tell Presley’s life story as early as 2014, and with a surname like that it was clear that historical accuracy wasn’t the top priority. Whoever expects a thoughtful reflection of his life picking up the least flattering sides of his profile, or looks like ‘Walk the Line’ (2005) should look elsewhere, ‘Elvis’ is a golden and artificial fantasy, a mannerist and impetuous look at the key points of his legend that does not avoid representing gray areas of his life —infidelity and drugs— but without exploring lurid details.
An excessive and idealized fairy tale
In fact, the option to show us his story is to create a villain to turn the singer into a victim, putting Tom Hanks playing Colonel Tom Parker, the manager who engineered Presley’s rise to world fame in the 1950s, but who He ended up accused of financial malpractice and being one of the instigators of the singer’s premature death in 1977. Parker is in fact the true protagonist of the story, an unreliable narrator through whom we watch the rise and fall of the myth.
While the film blames Parker for everything that went wrong and makes Presley a passive participant in his own career, all the clichés of musical biopics appear on screen, but amplified to operatic levels. In fact, Hanks replicates his role as petty manager from ‘The Wonders’ as a mephistophelian redneck caricature or cartoon villain, a one-dimensional portrayal that the actor understands and defends under a layer of grotesque makeup that works perfectly in the proposed exaggerated representation of reality.
The main clue to Luhrmann’s intentions is the segment in which Elvis’s childhood is shown animated in the style of the comics Presley read, and child actor Chaydon Jay plays him with a lightning bolt logo on a necklace in tribute to him. his favorite superhero, Captain Marvel, this translates to a vision influenced by the mythological representation of the heroes, making Parker a villain within his houseraising a pulse fight that makes up the entire plot.
Rise and fall from the shadow
Every event in Elvis’s career is seen as a response to the manager’s Machiavellian moves, a back-and-forth slap that generates a structure of traps and a triumph of the artist’s authenticity and talent over commercial interests, andn background not unlike the tension between Salieri and Mozart in ‘Amadeus’, which was also narrated by the musician’s nemesis, recounting the different obstacles that led to a miserable end to a genius. Under this code, ‘Elvis’ compresses 20 eventful years into two and a half hours.
It is impossible to include all the events of his life, but each act is structured in great sequences from his early days on tour, his 1968 “comeback” TV special, and his Las Vegas residency, stage that focuses the greatest dramatic balance of the set, which can be seen as Luhrmann’s favorite, who seems to have been born to represent the days of golden glitter and white jumpsuit. In its final phase, it makes a decadent representation of Presley’s relationship with Priscilla Beaulieu, (who was 14 years old when he met the 23-year-old pop star), showing how the marriage was deteriorating in the 70s, without avoiding infidelities. of the one in Memphis.
‘Elvis’ works largely thanks to Austin Butlera 30-year-old actor made famous with teen television roles on Disney Channel and The CW, overcoming his unlikely casting for a biography of the King of Rock’n’Roll—his physique doesn’t bear much resemblance to the real thing—getting the impossible by pulling off a stunning transformation on Presley, further capturing the character since his late ’60s comeback, from his voice to his moves to his attitude.
A vibrant audiovisual show
‘Elvis’ conveys the sensual provocation of Oliver Stone’s ‘The Doors’, even recreating a similar public scandal scene, but with a double dose of amphetamine, Luhrmann plays with the sense of humor of ‘Cry Baby’ with the fan phenomenon and the erotic power that the movements of the pelvis gave off, playing with montage shots, transitions, collages and all kinds of resources that transmit in the best possible way the sensation that caused the irruption of their performances.
In addition, the director builds his imaginary from the singer’s desire to become a superhero, which not only explains that his caped outfits in his shows will remind Shazam, but also that adopts an anarchic narrative of moving panels that recover the lost tone of current comic book adaptations. In some ways, the film can read like the photochrome-based stories in teen magazines devoted to pop idols.
‘Elvis’ is a sweeping, electric musical biopic, a precision stylized audiovisual representation that turns Presley into the affected rebel from the James Dean movies he wanted to look like while still panning the camera on his profiles, costumes and iconography with the same fascination as its fans and imitators, while the storm of decibels, remixes and recordings pushes each episode to the most epidermal and moving epic. Pride.