The King review – faltering Elvis documentary | Documentary films

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The journey of Elvis Presley, an archetypal American story, becomes an allegory for the state of the nation in this wildly ambitious but not entirely successful documentary. The vehicle for the film is Elvis’s Rolls-Royce, a luxurious padded cell with a faltering engine. In this film, pretty much everything has a metaphorical resonance. Film-maker Eugene Jarecki drives the car across the US, picking up musicians, commentators and Elvis fans along the way.

The thesis – that the life and career of Elvis can be used as a commentary on the country that spawned him – is initially persuasive, although not flattering to either party. The emphasis is on global influence tempered by the cultural appropriation, the over-consumption and aggressively cancerous capitalism. But for all the quality interviewees – Chuck D, Immortal Technique, Ethan Hawke and Alec Baldwin stand out – there is a sense of a picture groping for meaning. The backdrop to the journey – the 2016 presidential campaign and the rise of Trumpism – demands answers that the film, with its oblique approach, is simply not equipped to provide. To run with the Elvis analogy, what we need right now is the documentary equivalent of 50s Elvis – the dangerous, raw, unpredictable rebel who is not afraid of ruffling feathers. What we get is closer to early Vegas Elvis – a little bloated and befuddled, and not as light on his feet as he needs to be.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The King review – faltering Elvis documentary | Documentary films

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