Tuesday 26th of September 2023

too dazzling for some dour critics…...

Elvis Is a Con… Baz Luhrmann’s biopic scrambles to reassure us with a woke Elvis while failing to understand what really made him the King.  BY JACK HAMILTON

Hello? I beg to strongly differ with Hamilton who by all means is an expert on popopopop, while Old Gus is just an old bloke…


Jack Hamilton is Slate’s pop critic and associate professor of American studies and media studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination. I could not care less about the qualifications.





I will start by explaining something to Jack. Baz’s ELVIS isn’t a biopic. It is a pastiche like most of Baz’s movies… Baz’s ELVIS is bigger than life because how do you portray a guy who was bigger than life in our own minds?


A pastiche is a work of art, literature, theatre, music, movie or architecture that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists. Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates the work it imitates, rather than mocking it.


Baz Luhrmann’s ELVIS in Baz inimitable style is a Pastiche with a ladle of clever entertaining humour that goes a long way to dig under the Presley legend. “Elvis his dead” and Baz brings him to life better and faster than a hypersonic missile. One needs to keep up with the pace. 


I was an adult European when Elvis was a soldier in Germany. The hullabaloo was massive, even in Europe. It seems every second day brought an Elvis front page on the European papers and magazines… Was this part of the US kultur being used to manipulate the European minds into loving America (when many Europeans hated the Yanks then) — with their favourite son, now in uniform, defending the ideal of freedom against the Kommies? Is this new Baz movie not better and more REAL than a Maverick Tom Cruise? 


Baz Luhrmann alluded to all this Kultur, though it could have been my own memories being tickled by the pace of the screen moments — all emotional and dazzling.


Hamilton thinks that the movie is RACIST…


Hello? Is ELVIS the movie racist? I don’t think so. ARE THE USA RACIST? Sure. Movements like BLM and woke would not have cropped up recently. The USA were more racist in the days of Elvis, but the movie explicitly shows that Elvis was not racist, and that consciously or not, he brought the races together via the music. Did he or did he not in “real life”? Who cares… History is always fuzzy, and accuracy of description also belongs to Hamiltonian delusions… We don’t really know. So what?


ELVIS could be Tom Hank’s best movie, so far. His rendition of a devious but jovial Colonel Parker is over-the-top perfection. This is a top-class satirical pastiche in which corrupt life in America is gently exposed to the core of making a buck, by laughing at it while everyone is bigger than life in ELVIS, the movie. This is what legends are really made of. Sorry to prick your bubble Jack… What you know is your version of drab illusions. 


Little Richard, Ella and all the jazz are recreated with love, passion, rhythms and power possibly beyond their reality — but this what legends are. What else do you want? Too fast and furious? How do you encapsulate the short life of a singing Demi-god in more than two and a half hours?


We do not go to see ELVIS to see the Elvis we remember. We see Elvis with new twinkling eyes, like that of a kid, now magically entertained, and mesmerised by the circus atmosphere in which the unreality of movie-making becomes more than real. It’s a clever magic trick that may not work for all, especially for American critics like Hamilton, all enamoured with their own recorded false love of CIA-inspired gun-totting Hollywood America.