Is it possible to know even less about a prominent cultural icon after viewing a major motion picture about them than before seeing that film? This is one of the lingering problems with Baz Luhrmann’s hopelessly frenetic biopic, “Elvis”.
It might have been more illuminating (though less commercially expedient to be sure) had Luhrmann titled the film “Parker”, as the unrelenting fascination with Elvis Presley’s notoriously shady career manager certainly takes the bulk of the attention from the eponymous rock legend. Luhrmann’s penchant for what might be charitably labeled a flexible adhesion to historic accuracy (most prominent in, but certainly not limited to, his anachronistic use of musical materials) may not be as problematic in a fictional context, but opens a considerable can of worms in a cinematic genre which is already predisposed to outrageous yet underwhelming fictionalization toward its subjects.
If a usefully representative film biography is already facing an uphill battle against the predominant theory of factual filmmaking, which decrees that truth is best served with melodramatic invention, then in the case of “Elvis”, the life of the legendary performer faces insurmountable odds against the siren’s lure of meretricious pageantry. Filtering even (what should be) the most intimate and introspective…
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