The 75e Cannes film festival ends this weekend with the presentation of his Palme d’Or, the Palme d’Or. It might be a fancy place, with its famous red carpet, but it’s also a launching pad for the movies that come our way. After launching Top Gun 2, Cannes effectively ends with a big glittery out-of-competition screening by Baz Luhrmann Elvis. which played like an emergency room shock at the heart of a festival that slumbered with films that meant well.
Elvis reflects Australian director Baz Lurhmann’s penchant for smashing an atomic pinata of explosive moments, sketching young Presley’s life in Tupelo black gospel and blues, Memphis, BB King, Big Momma Thornton, Sun Records and global super stardom in the years 1950. The kid makes lunar hip movements and the old world order saw morality crumble as it did with jazz 30 years earlier. White Southern Democrats wanted to lock up their wives and children. Elvis the Movie conjures up the storms surrounding his infamous TV appearance, chilling for two years in Germany in the military, reuniting with Priscilla, returning to Hollywood and eventually slowly doping drugs at age 42 in Vegas in a jumpsuit white swept by The tides. In the mid-60s, young people forgot about Elvis, and much of what Lurhmann does in two and forty hours is Elvis 101. Luhrmann takes a bit of liberties history to explain who Elvis was and position him as a rebel artist who fought The Man to the end – just so the movie can be released to young audiences now, not just those who experienced Elvis back in the day.
The first hurdle to do Elvis had to be who you gonna call to do the King? Austin Butler, who had a small role in Quentin Tarantino Once upon a time in Hollywood, gives Luhrmann everything he asked for, albeit physically in a reduced package. Butler pouts the lost boy and the lightning strikes his gyrating body that makes the panties fly, though I admit I thought the panties weren’t raining until I saw the Beatles in 1964.
Lurhmann frames the story told by the evil voiceover of Colonel Tom Parker, the promoter-packer who made Presley a colossus, then did whatever it took to hold him back.
Elvis has a hunch that he is taller than Parker but is played like a child. As Colonel, Hanks is tasked with doing a voiceover that ties together all the settings of Elvis’ life and career. Hanks is buried under pounds of goop to give him a tree-sized neck and an indeterminate so-called Dutch accent, because Parker was post-war stateless, undocumented, living as a gentleman’s concert organizer from the South when he bumps into Presley here, like Bruce the Shark sees a baby seal.
Aussie Luhrmann’s finest work – on-screen romances that started small and grew exponentially in size and scope – Ballroom strictly in 1992, Romeo and Juliet in 1996 with baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio wooing Clare Danes, and red Mill with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in 2001 was downright electrifying. But Australia in 2008 and Gatsby the magnificent nine years ago left the distinct impression that Luhrmann was now relying on the Glitter-pop extravaganza to get by.
In Elvis it needs a hit, Cannes provided the launch pad, and I bet however above Luhrmann style and regardless of critical shortcomings, the film will make a billion dollars worldwide. This is Jaws like a rock opera that swallows the whole whale. I wasn’t moved to tears, as the Elvis faithful will be – but what about you? Warner Brothers is betting on it, first bringing the film to the world stage at Cannes and then in front of you in the United States on June 24.
Let’s move on to this French phenom, James Gray, who is a much-loved and revered director, more so than where he comes from, Queens, New York.
The story of his new film, armageddon timewas filmed a few blocks from where Gray grew up in Flushing in the 1980s.
Banks Repeta, a cute androgynous redhead who looks straight out of a Vermeer painting, replaces Gray as Paul Graff, a second-generation Ukrainian Jewish immigrant child with the innate American outlaw tendencies that bloom in PS 173 and later at a preparatory school in Kew Gardens-Forest Hills. Gray pairs him with Jaylin Webb as Johnny, the black kid and Paul’s best friend in class, getting the doom rush. Whether or not Gray lived through the story of discrimination at the heart of this story, Paul and Johnny’s story is what they talk about now when people clash in PTA meetings on Critical Race Theory. .
armageddon time may be the closest look at Gray’s personal history, but all – Little Odessa with Tim Rothtwo loverss with Gwynneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix, and The immigrant with Marion Cotillard – reach a broader context. He has since become a big canvas, an adventurer of the genre — Ad Astrawith Brad Pitt in Space; The lost city of Z, with Robert Pattinson pirating the Amazon (when it was a river); We own the night and Construction sitestwo new york criminals shtunk movies starring Joaquin Phoenix again and Mark Wahlberg as borough cops and weasels.
The talk about Gray is still the reason he is so beloved in France, more so than Flushing. Maybe everything will change with armageddon time.