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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1 Comment

  1. December 27, 2021

    who wrote this? Richard Wilkins? Even the most amateur of pop historians knows the evolution of post war popular music.

    “In a racist world, he brought African-American music to the masses” – Elvis didn’t bring R&B, or Blues to the masses. He did bring rock to the masses (albeit after, perhaps, Bill Haley) but rock wasn’t african-american music. It was a mix of country (white) music and black R&B. To disregard the country music at the heart of rock n roll is either a lack of education or wilful ignorance (there are many books out there that talk about the evolution of rock, so there is no reason for either).

    “also becoming a huge Hollywood star without any acting ability” … wtf? He didn’t win Oscars but then again neither did cary grant, Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, steve McQueen, kirk douglas or tony curtis. Of course he could act within roles (it’s still acting) .. everyone has roles. God forbid we would have to see Daniel Day Lewis (assuming you consider him a person who can “act”) in a romantic musical comedy. . Elvis is still the only rock star who had a career in Hollywood … 31 films in 14 years attests to that (ie: the public and the producers had faith in his ability to deliver what was required)

    The doco is, however, great

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