Two decades of the number one musical icon – Column by Mauricio Laurens – Columnists – Opinion

Elvis Presley (1935-1977), is the undisputed king of rock and roll and one of the most emblematic figures in the world in the second half of the 20th century. His artistic influence, forty-five years after his death, continues and will never decline. In this spectacular biography filmed around the immortal idol, a visual invoice is imposed, highlighted by the extravagances and kitsch of the 60s and 70s beyond melodrama, adventures of the heart and simply sung musicals.

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The hysteria in the female audience caused by his “hypnotic and sensual” movements is one of the recurring aspects touched on by Luhrmann (‘Romeo+Julieta’, ‘Moulin Rouge’). At the world premiere of the last Cannes Film Festival, several of its first privileged critics and spectators referred to such a unique film biographical (‘biopic’) as ‘Elvis, the Pelvis’.

Presley, from the beginning, attracted the unconditional fanaticism of millions of admirers and was the target of defamation and attempted censorship by conservative or retrograde sectors. Raised in an African-American neighborhood, when his parents moved from Mississippi to Memphis (Tennessee), he frequented Beale Street (the heart of blues) and became possessed by the gospel of the Pentecostal churches. His voice on the radio was believed to be that of a young black man. “Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force of the 20th century,” said Leonard Bernstein.

Its narrative line focuses on the successful, although difficult, relationships maintained with Colonel Tom Parker, manager for twenty years since 1955, played by Tom Hanks with lots of kilos and makeup. He portrays himself as a mixture of crooked businessman and crook, as a shrewd business adviser, as a liaison for his celebrated television appearances, and as the one who managed his busy schedule of thirty stellar movies and coordinated recordings of singles, shows and collector’s albums.

At the beginning, the voice-over narrator wonders: who or what killed Elvis? Three answers: the barbiturates, himself (as an exploitative villain), and the public, who loved them so much and only lived for them. Other relationships: with her mother, overprotective to the end, because for Gladys Love Smith, with respect to her only child, who survived the birth of twins, there was always fear of losing him; with her wife, Priscilla Beaulieu (1967-1973), including issues surrounding the birth of Lisa Marie, who recently claimed to have quite liked the movie about her legendary dad. Among the lesser-known facets of him is that of a handsome recruit in the US Army and the reactions to two assassinations that affected him: that of civil rights defender Martin Luther King and that of Democratic presidential senator Robert Kennedy.

Another topic that most draws the attention of Elvis (the film): his artistic form with the showy stamp that distinguishes Luhrmann in short shots, barely 2 or 3 seconds long. Indeed, the kitsch style gushes out in the settings typical of the 50s and 60s, in the wardrobe of sequined shirts and flowing pants; in the electric guitars and sparkling drums; in the proliferation of jewels and golden inlays, costumes that seem to have come out of a museum: soldier, white cowboy, Valentino style, black leather suits and deployed capes of American eagles.

So much so that, from the beginning and in the promotional posters, diamonds and rubies flash when the letters of their credits are assembled and in the end they are framed while they roll in a succession of lateral vertical bands in filigree and high reliefs of fine rhinestones. . The versatile protagonist: Austin Butler (California, 1991), who is already an Oscar favorite, is attached with the same genius.

Influenced by the blues of black artists, he himself had the courage to appropriate sounds inherited from the slaves and mix them with tones that we would call white, because Presley imposed a rhythm and colors that unified various musical genres such as rock, blues, gospel (religious and secular), the characteristic ‘rhythm and blues’, country rock, pop rock and ‘soul and funk’.

Although the film does not mention his meteoric film career, I cite titles that we saw in Bogotá in the morning at the Almirante Theater on 85th Street: love me tender, jail rock, King Creole, girls and more girls, Hawaiian paradise Y Elvis: The Comeback Specialamong others that go from 56 to 68. Time is dedicated to the monumental International Hilton in Las Vegas, being the exclusivity of its presentations, as well as the Graceland residence, a gift for Gladys (her mother), later tomb-museum more visited from the United States.

Those brakes of Colonel Parker to his European tours also resonate alleging security reasons, and a hyperactivity that caused self-destructive symptoms. In 1973, he broke a record with 180 concerts. In the end, according to a new autopsy, we know the cause of his premature death, he was 42 years old: poly-medication, “mixture of sedatives, amphetamines and legal narcotics.” Let us remember that next August 15, Elvis will be 45 years old since his earthly departure.

MAURICIO LAURENS

(Read all the columns of Mauricio Laurens in EL TIEMPO, here)

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