Elvis | Desire for a great show

After nine years The great Gatsbyboss red mill Baz Luhrmann provides a “Shakespearean” view of Elvis Presley’s life, through the vision of Colonel Parker, the famous King’s manager. Starring Austin Butler, whose performance was unanimously approved at the Cannes Film Festival, Tom Hanks, Elvis Brings the icon to life on the big screen.

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Marc André Loser

Marc André Loser

Recognized for his glowing approach to directing, thanks to films like Strictly ballroomAnd the romeo + juliet And the red millBaz Luhrmann is part of a generation that grew up listening to songs by David Bowie, Elton John and Michael Jackson, rather than a singer. love me Tender, tender, tender, soft. For the Australian director, the desire to make a feature film about the life of Elvis Presley comes above all from the exceptional nature of the artist’s performance on stage, but also from the social context in which he developed.

“In the performance, Elvis was a force of nature,” Baz Luhrmann recalled during a virtual press meeting in which he participated Journalism Share. For a long time I resisted the desire to tell his life in cinema, until I realized that a great idea was worth exploring through it. To understand today’s world, you have to go back to the fifties, sixties and seventies of the last century, where the thirst for renewal began at that time, which was noticeably crystallized in the convergence of different cultures in music. What makes Elvis’ life a tragedy is the way he has been exploited. »

Amadeus for model

By orchestrating this feature film for five years, the director wanted a “Shakespearean” approach to going beyond traditional biographical drama. In his eyes, he is still the greatest model of the genre Amadeus, a masterpiece created by Milos Forman nearly 40 years ago. the same way as a manager Flying over the cuckoo’s nest Telling, on screen Peter Schaeffer’s play, Mozart’s story through the vision of his “rival” Salieri, Baz Luhrmann chose to tell the story of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) by borrowing the point of view of Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). The latter managed to manage the singer’s career by squeezing the lemon to the maximum.

PHOTO JOEL C RYAN, Associated Press Archives

Tom Hanks, Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler on a showElvis At the Cannes Film Festival

“There is also that Elvis was a man of few words, as the director identifies. Rather, he revealed himself through his songs and actions. He was also very sensitive, very anxious, but exploded on stage.”

Having emerged as Elvis Presley at a time when America is in turmoil, it is difficult to separate Elvis Presley from the political and social context at a time when demands for greater social justice, including the recognition of civil rights for African Americans, are beginning. Clear.

“Politics is not the subject of the film, but it is certainly always present, implicitly, as Baz Luhrmann points out. It is impossible to discuss the life of Elvis Presley without talking about segregation and racism. He was at the heart of this fact. By meeting people who knew him at Graceland, I was able to see How Elvis was a spiritual being, and so drawn to gospel music. In a short time, tragic things also happened on the political level: the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Robert Kennedy was assassinated while Elvis was filming the TV special marking his return to music.”

Austin Butler, a major asset

Above all, Baz Luhrmann wanted to make Elvis’ life a great cinematic spectacle. Practically made it a profession.

“I carry within me a passion for cinema that stems from my childhood,” he says. I love the idea of ​​bringing strangers together in a dark room and making them share common feelings. I’m about to make it my mission, especially with what we’ve been through over the past two years. »

Photo provided by WARNER BROS. Pictures

Austin Butler and Tom Hanks in Elvis

Realizing that his flamboyant approach can’t always be unanimous (critics the day after the release ofElvis At the Cannes Film Festival it was somewhat mixed), the director anyway is sure of a major asset: Austin Butler.

“When I first met Austin, he’d already been living with Elvis in his head for so long. So much so that today I find it hard to decide if I picked it up. He’s that big. I’ve given him all the possible tests imaginable. Everyone will have their say in This film is not for me to express their opinion, but I can say unequivocally that Austin’s performance is impressive.”

for new generations

The director also knows all too well that by showcasing the life of an icon that still occupies such an importance in the American collective imagination, even 45 years after his death, he exposes himself to the grievances of die-hard Elvis Presley fans. .

“I understand the feelings of Elvis fans. He has opened so many doors that I have given myself the mandate to tell his story and that of Colonel Parker to new generations. But I didn’t make this movie to tell them they should love it as much as old people.”

Elvis It hits theaters June 24th.

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