Should I watch "Elvis" – a chaotic film with a cool soundtrack and costumes

On August 8, Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis, based on the biography of the legendary musician, was released on digital platforms. This is the director’s first feature-length work since The Great Gatsby, that is, in almost 10 years. By the way, during the calm period, Luhrmann also released the extremely underrated TV series The Get Down.

During the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, the picture was received very warmly, but at the box office, Elvis grossed $ 250 million on a budget of $ 85. That is, it turned out to be profitable, but not hugely successful. Perhaps that is why it was released on the Web rather quickly, until the interest of the audience faded completely.

When viewing, it is easy to understand why Elvis did not cause a storm of excitement: Luhrmann shoots exactly the same way as 10 and even 20 (when Moulin Rouge came out) years ago. This is again an overly bright, loud and chaotic film, consisting of beautiful scenes that often interfere with each other.

But therein lies its charm. The director just wants to please the audience and once again reminds of the great artist.

The life of Elvis is told superficially, but they reveal another character

Surprisingly, the main character of this film is not Elvis Presley himself (he was played by the little-known, but very charismatic Austin Butler). Much of the story is told from the perspective of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker ( Tom Hanks ). Already a deep old man, while in the hospital, he recalls how he met a very young singer, who had just begun to play on the radio.

Parker quickly realized that Elvis would become a star, signed him to a contract and went on tour. But the manager was always concerned only with earnings, and the performer himself valued his audience and, due to difficult conditions, gradually began to lose inspiration.

It is unlikely that there will be at least one person who has not heard a single song of Elvis Presley, does not recognize his appearance and voice. But not everyone was interested in the artist’s biography, only a few facts were heard: military service, a career in cinema, a strange death, and so on.

And in terms of revealing the personality and life tragedy of the singer, Elvis looks like a rather controversial picture. Luhrmann covered the entire life of the performer, so the plot sweeps like a hurricane through the main stages of his biography , without really stopping at any.

Shot from the movie “Elvis”

Here is a young Elvis for the first time on stage and suddenly realizes that the girls like his sexual movements. After 10 minutes of screen time, he is already a star. After another 10 minutes, his career is in jeopardy, and the performer is sent to serve in Germany. And so without stopping all two and a half hours of timing.

Probably, the author can be scolded for a superficial look at the character. But, on the other hand, it seems that Luhrmann is addressing those for whom Elvis is only the voice and actor of old funny films (by the way, very little is said about them). The picture will acquaint such viewers with the difficult fate of the singer.

But something else is interesting. As mentioned at the beginning, Parker can be called the main character of this story. And this personality in Elvis is revealed much brighter – it’s not for nothing that Hanks even decided to move away from his traditional role as a good guy for the sake of the role, and even allowed himself to be made up like that.

Shot from the movie “Elvis”

This person is familiar only to those who are interested in the behind the scenes of show business. But in fact, it was Colonel Tom Parker who created the industry as we know it. He is the progenitor of predatory contracts, endless merch and pushing performers into advertising. And this man has grown from a circus worker to one of the most famous managers in the United States. In addition, he is an immigrant from Europe, who was suspected of murder. And yes, he is not a colonel or even Tom Parker, but Andreas Cornelis van Cuyck.

The authors wittily showed the story from his face. This is like a villain who is trying to justify his actions by giving the world a star. But in essence, Parker is almost Mephistopheles, constantly persuading Elvis to sell his soul for the sake of another contract. Watching this man use the meanest tricks to get his way is even more interesting than following the experiences of the singer himself.

In Elvis, the production looks chaotic, but the musical numbers are very cool

The biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, dedicated to Freddie Mercury, was criticized a lot for ragged editing, when even dialogue scenes were cut into 2-3 seconds. Elvis takes this weirdness to the next level. And surprisingly, this is both a plus and a minus of the picture.

Shot from the movie “Elvis”

It seems that there are no long-term plans here at all: the cameras switch like crazy, but they also add a split screen to this – the screen is divided into parts in which they show something of their own. Perhaps Luhrmann so wanted to convey the frantic pace of life of the protagonist and the saturation of his biography with bright moments. But in the end, the picture can only be perceived as cutting clips.

And here the main talent of Luhrmann and the dignity of “Elvis” are manifested. Musical numbers in the hands of the director turn into something inimitable, magnificent and exciting. Suffice it to recall the Moulin Rouge, which set the style of all kinds of parties for many years. And then the same story with The Great Gatsby, which is not even a musical .

Catherine Martin, the director’s wife, who works with him all the time and has already won four Oscars, was responsible for the costumes in the film. Although here, perhaps, it was easier for her, because in many cases it was enough just to copy Presley’s bright original outfits.

Shot from the movie “Elvis”

As for the music, Luhrmann is once again mixing styles that don’t seem to fit together. But one should not be surprised: one of the most famous numbers of the same Moulin Rouge tape is El Tango De Roxanne. This is a cover of a song by the British Sting, who is performed by a Pole in the style of Argentine tango – and all this in France at the beginning of the 19th century.

In Elvis, the director mixes the artist’s old original recordings with covers sung by Austin Butler himself – because of this, rock and roll hits periodically turn into viscous trip hop or any other style. And then they add rhythm and bass and rap on top of that.

It is completely incomprehensible how this can sound good. But it sounds! And so, after watching, you immediately want to find the soundtrack and listen separately.

Perhaps the fact is that this approach allows us to understand the feelings of contemporaries from the work of Elvis Presley himself. The film just shows how he mixed “black” blues and gospels with traditional country music. That is, opposite styles, which were listened to by people who almost hated each other.

Shot from the movie “Elvis”

And it’s even interesting to watch: will Elvis cause a new wave of interest in the work of the king of rock and roll? Will they have parties to his music and dress up in the style of the 60s? The experience of “Moulin Rouge” and “The Great Gatsby” suggests that yes.

Social themes feel redundant and personal drama is lacking

The most mixed feelings remain from the scenes when Luhrmann tries to project the fate of Elvis on the life of the whole country. Although, it would seem, this is quite simple: the heyday of Presley’s popularity fell on very turbulent times for the United States. Here and censorship, and segregation , and many disturbing events.

And the picture says it all. After all, Elvis really had problems with the image for television, the singer could simply be banned. And at concerts, the audience was really divided by skin color. But for some reason it seems that the director, as in the case of the biography, tried to cover too much. In addition to the events that really influenced Presley’s work, they show moments that do not advance the plot in any way. This is especially evident in the scene of Kennedy’s death. The hero talks a lot, but in the end does nothing. It’s just that the viewer is once again convinced that the producer of the star is a villain.

Shot from the movie “Elvis”

Another thing is the personal tragedy of the artist. Here it is even a shame that the authors decided not to focus on his experiences. It would have slowed down the too brisk pace and made it possible to see the injured person in the hero. After all, in fact, “Elvis” is the story of the struggle between sincerity and venality. Biography of a man who tried to save himself in the cruel world of show business. Yes, and just a declaration of love both to Presley himself and to his devoted audience.

Alas, one has to be content with separate inserts when the main character is experiencing the death of his mother or when he talks with his wife about the prospects. A little more focus on such touching scenes, the story would have blossomed.

Shot from the movie “Elvis”

Elvis looks like a movie from the past. Luhrmann seems to be pretending that 10–20 years have not passed and you can still produce paintings on the verge of kitsch, without even working through the plot. But surprisingly, the director manages to please and interest the viewer. You think about all the shortcomings only after the final. And before that, the picture looks like a crazy and vivid dive into the life of one of the greatest singers.

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