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Just when we thought it was impossible to say something new about Elvis Presley, documentary film-maker Eugene Jarecki pulls it off, simply by taking Elvis’s old Rolls-Royce on a road trip all over the US, to places that meant a lot to the singer, talking to people about the King, letting them look at the car, sometimes letting them sit in it. Somebody bursts into tears. That strange, empty, bulbous, luxury automobile, so hopelessly dated, becomes an eerie and compelling image of sadness and national malaise. Interviewee David Simon (creator of TV’s The Wire) said it would have been better to have used one of Elvis’s Cadillacs, so redolent of America’s vanquished car industry. But there is something so poignant in the genteel wrongness of Elvis’s Rolls. Like Elvis’s career, the postwar American dream looks innocent and inspiring from one angle, and from another, like something built on the unrewarded labour of black people.
Elvis was the white performer who could sell black musicians’ work to white audiences and became rich and famous in a way they never could. But his own reputation with regard to racism has recently been revised and apocryphal bigoted remarks debunked. The lyrics from Public Enemy’s Fight the Power are cited: “Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant shit to me you see / Straight up racist that sucker was.” But now Chuck D, in conversation with Jarecki, has a more nuanced and generous approach to Elvis.
What emerges from this movie is that Elvis resonates with the white working classes of America, the people who reportedly put Donald Trump into the White House, although the person Trump most resembles is surely Elvis’s notorious, huckster manager Colonel Tom Parker, and this movie misses a trick by not talking more about him. Jarecki’s film argues that Trump’s America is in its Fat Elvis phase, its Vegas phase, bloated and on the verge of OD-ing. Let’s hope that he’s wrong.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The King review – Trump’s America through the windows of Elvis’s Rolls | Film