Film Review: The King

Elvis Aaron Presley was the greatest entertainer who ever lived. Despite not being able to read or write music, he became a household name around the world. Even his decline and death still fascinates and resonates. What made him so successful was a mixture of extreme raw talent, the visionary and authoritarian management of Colonel Tom Parker, his boyish charisma and coming along at precisely the right time. In a racist world, he brought African-American music to the masses, also becoming a huge Hollywood star without any acting ability. He was a celebrity in the modern sense of the world; embodying the very definition of fame.

Eugene Jarecki’s new documentary, The King, takes a rather leftfield look at the greatest showman. Forty years after his death, Jarecki’s takes Elvis’s Rolls Royce on tour across America to chart the rise and fall of Elvis Presley and look at the echoes of his tragic life which still haunt the country today. Whilst the subject matter is ‘The King’, the focus is firmly on the American Dream. It was an idea personified by the boy from Tupelo, Mississippi but in many ways his life was a foreshadowing of things to come.

Whilst the rise and fall of Elvis Presley has been documented many times and if well-known, The King benefits from approaching its subject from a different angle. Jarecki, who has previously won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for Why We Fight and The House I Live In, again trains his camera on the socio-economic and political history and present of America. Comparing and contrasting today’s politics with yesterday’s showbusiness. The King is a fascinating take on the Elvis phenomenon, which documents his life within a cultural context.

The King is out in cinemas from 24 August.

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