‘Elvis’, the trailer, plus a film about music made by a grown up


What a joy to be able to see the world as Baz Luhrmann does, through the eyes of a 9 year old boy. Many 9 and 10 year olds note what plea­sure they get from eat­ing the icing on a cake. And they have the bril­liant idea of ask­ing for one made of noth­ing else. 

But they note their parent’s weary dis­missal of that idea, and they spend a few years inves­ti­gat­ing gas­tron­o­my, learn­ing about appetite and acquir­ing taste. And they come to appre­ci­ate that plea­sure with­out pain, light with­out dark­ness and euphor­ic highs with­out the depths of despair sim­ply can­not be. They are mutu­al­ly dependent.

The Vel­vet Under­ground, Nica and Andy Warhol

But Lurhmann has said, sod that. I’m stay­ing just as I am. And he’s spot­ted how much we all enjoy watch­ing music videos and movie trail­ers, and he’s had the bril­liant idea of mak­ing fea­ture length ver­sions of them. 

So we got Romeo + Juli­ette, which man­ages to defang Shakespeare’s play of its tragedy, and turn it into a pop­tas­tic cos­tume fest. Then there was Moulin Rouge, which was a 2 hour music video, pure and sim­ple. Like­wise The Great Gats­by

Which, I have to con­fess, I’ve not been able to actu­al­ly sit through. So it’s per­fect­ly pos­si­ble that it’s a care­ful­ly con­sid­ered and thought­ful med­i­ta­tion on doomed youth and fin de siè­cle dis­il­lu­sion­ment. But I’m going out on a limb, and pre­sum­ing that it’s just A N Oth­er 2 hour plus music video.

The Vel­vet Under­ground and Nico

And now we have 2 ¾ hour movie trail­er about Elvis. So, as with any trail­er, you get told imme­di­ate­ly who the good­ies and bad­dies are. And every line of dia­logue is on the nose and means exact­ly what it says – just like this sen­tence. And every frame is stuffed full of infor­ma­tion, because you’ve only got two min­utes to tell the audi­ence about all the dif­fer­ent ele­ments in your story. 

Only it doesn’t go on for two min­utes. This is kept up for near­ly three hours. There’s stuff stuffed into every frame and on every cor­ner of the sound­track. It’s like watch­ing a teenage boy who’s just been shown what all the but­tons do in his edit­ing soft­ware. And so pleased is he with all the effects they can pro­duce, that he can’t stop press­ing them, repeat­ed­ly. And he’s com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous to the reac­tion of his par­ents when he shows them what he’s done.

It’s relent­less in its blind bom­bard­ment of the sens­es, and the tedi­um that results is inces­sant and mind-numbing.

The Vel­vet Underground

I always admire though rarely warm to the films of Todd Haynes. But his epony­mous doc­u­men­tary on The Vel­vet Under­ground is an unqual­i­fied joy from start to fin­ish. Seri­ous music from an extra­or­di­nary col­lec­tive who came togeth­er at a fas­ci­nat­ing moment in time. 

Struc­tured in an appro­pri­ate­ly left of field way, it’s a qui­et­ly intel­li­gent and thought­ful film about a unique­ly influ­en­tial band. Their first album is one of the great works of art of the 20th cen­tu­ry. And remark­ably, this film does them justice. 

Watch­ing it after sit­ting through Elvis is like drop­ping your child off at a birth­day par­ty, only to be greet­ed there by the excit­ed stare of the birth­day boy, as he offers you a slice of his sol­id icing cake. When sud­den­ly, you’re tak­en by the elbow and gen­tly led out into the back gar­den, where you’re hand­ed an ice cold beer and a glass of Jame­son. And you sit down togeth­er and lean back to con­tem­plate the stars.

You can see the trail­er for The Vel­vet Under­ground below:

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