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

Elvis

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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Top 5 Reasons Not To Bother Seeing “The Great Gatsby”.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

5. Because it’s a Baz Luhrmann film. And Luhrmann doesn’t make films, he makes music videos. And they have a language all of their own.

With just three or four minutes to get your story across, you need to paint your characters in big bold primary colours and in oversized emotions. And everything has to be in short hand and reduced to its bare minimum, so that all of the story points can be understood, immediately. No shot ever lingers for more than a second and a half before it’s ruthless- and restlessly cut, and the next is busily inserted.

It’s breathless and, occasionally, exhilarating. But having to watch 90 minutes – or more – of all that is like being asked to read a novel in text speak. It gets wearying, very, very quickly.

4. Because, as the old Hollywood adage goes, the best books make the worst films and vice versa. And Gatsby, somewhat surprisingly, hasn’t aged a day. It’s majestic.

3. Because, and not withstanding the above, the 1974 version is actually pretty good. Penned by Francis Ford Coppola, it’s a tad reverential and tiptoes tentatively around its source. But what saves it is its casting. Robert Redford is perfect.

Everything that makes him so suspect as a performer renders him ideal for Fitzgerald’s nebulous, opaque anti-hero. And all of the conflicting emotions you experience when watching him are transferred on to the figure of Gatsby.

Robert Redford as Gatsby

Robert Redford as Gatsby

Redford is porn personified. You know that it’s all show, that there’s nothing there, there. Beneath the surface, or beyond that facade. That whenever anyone tries that hard to make it look natural, all you ever notice is all of that effort. And that there’s something faintly ridiculous about anyone that fixated with and happy about how they look.

And yet, you can’t take your eyes off of him. Which means, obviously, that you’re every bit as shallow as he is.

Until eventually, in a vain effort to justify your attraction, you find yourself asking, what if? What if there’s nothing wrong with mere surface? What if that’s all there is?

All of which of course is exactly what the novel is about.

2. Because it’s in 3D. Which is so five minutes ago dot com.

1. One word; Australia.

One more reason? Very well, here’s the trailer.

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