A manipulable Elvis

When it comes to the art of storytelling, there are times when the contemporary obsession with creativity goes too far, to the detriment of storytelling itself. So it is with the movie Elvis, by Baz Luhrmann, where the director’s narrative interferes with the story from the beginning, a bit as if he wanted to put himself creatively on a par with the life of the legend on the one hand, and on the other to frame the story of Elvis from a tragic perspective. / mythological, which rather leads to the caricatured and the involuntary parody. As has already been said, it is the story told from the perspective of Elvis’s manager, Colonel Parker, which could have been a narrative success: but hence the resource of showing the senile colonel narrating in a hospital gown in front of slot machines in a Las Vegas casino, there is a huge distance. The effect is to caricature the film, and in that sense the Elvis shown to us is consistent with the record. Well, instead of showing the infinite chiaroscuro of one of the most endearing, fascinating and influential characters in contemporary pop culture, Luhrmann offers us a hyper-sexed and manipulable kid, whom he tries to endow with a rebellious and anti-system character that he never had. , or at least not in the sense that the film tries to convey.

Well, far from Elvis being a threat to the law, the definitive biography written by Peter Guralnick (which it seems that Luhrmann did not read) shows Elvis’s fascination with the forces of order, reflected, for example, in his famous encounter with Richard Nixon, in the fact that he accompanied FBI agents on drug raids (where they wouldn’t let him out of the car, so he waited for them there, with half a pharmacy running through his veins), in his getting an honorary plaque just off through Nixon, or in his hatred of John Lennon for his pacifism.

Well, the undoubted revolution produced by Elvis was first of all musical, somatic and indeed sexual, even if it were involuntary, which in itself is not only not a small thing, but acquires greater relevance in contrast to his very American side of fascination with weapons. and violence organized by political power. But in keeping with the current need to consume epics around the clock, Elvis tells us the story of a rebel with a cause who is pushed to his destruction by a gambling and manipulative manager (which was indeed the case), omitting his voluntary participation in the contradictions and pathos that, far from impoverishing the character, make him much more fascinating, because a story where the protagonist fights with competing forces within himself is always more attractive than that of a passive victim who only marches towards his annihilation with little resistance.

And it is no coincidence that Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley have praised the film, since above all it offers us an Elvis ready made to make us feel good, a martyr oppressed by a villain, and also by a system that he put in check with his pelvic movements and the influence of music from the black community. One more Elvis ad hoc to contemporary needs, with which, now its legend, continues to be the object of endless manipulation.

Eduardo Rabasa

A manipulable Elvis