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Thread: THE KING (Eugene Jaarecki 2018)

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    THE KING (Eugene Jaarecki 2018)

    EUGENE JARECKI: THE KING (2018)

    Eugene Jarecki: The King (2017)


    M. WARD PERFORMING A KEY SONG IN THE 1963 PHANTOM IN JARECKI'S THE KING

    Feverish meditation

    The King is nominally a documentary, but really more a lecture, a distractingly well-illustrated one. It has access to a wealth of visual information, and many well-known living people, from Ethan Hawke to yes, even Ashton Kutcher, who may represent a fading star like the fortyish Elvis Presley. Eugene Jarecki, the filmmaker, even gets a lot of them to do their talking sitting inside Elvis Presley's 1963 Rolls Royce Phantom, which he's mysteriously gotten hold of and is being driven across the country for this purpose. What purpose? To survey the life of Elvis while commenting on America today - thus meditating on the merging of politics and pop culture, with special reference to the rise of Donald Trump and the tendencies he represents and he decline of American power and hope.

    During the film's present-time moment, Trump is running for US President, giving Elvis' title "The King" a further ominous foreshadowing of the monarchical impulses on display in today's White House. The singer's lifetime could mean anything, with all the contrasting comments, all the historical clips. This is an exciting, lively film, but also perhaps Jarecki's most chaotic and inconclusive. One can enjoy the passion while regretting the messiness. Others may simply think a mess of a movie is the best expression of today's America. Elvis Presley was the prisoner of his exploitive manager; the US is an empire in decline, the American Dream, never all it was cracked up to be, now a fading Phantom. (The Rolls breaks down at one point.)

    Jareck initiallyi traces Elivs to Tupelo, Miss. and Memphis, Tenn., where he was born and achieved fame. His rags-to-riches rise parallels America's great post-war surge, which contrasts to today's loss of options for the working class, destruction of the middle class, and creation of an enormous gap between the obscenely rich and everyone else.

    Elvis rose from poverty but obviously this miracle of "opportunity" has an aspect of racial injustice. He was a white man. The American Dream was not so glowing if you bore the legacy of slavery. Two black voices are returned to through the film: Chuck D of Public Enemy, who faults Presley's "appropriation" of black music (but he appropriated white music too, David Simon points out); Chuck D's is on stronger ground when he questions Presley's status as "The King" when black artists like Little Richard and Chuck Berry et al. came first and had greater musical dexterity. News commentator and Obama advisor Van Jones critiques Elvis too. He, and this film, refer to how Muhammad Ali vocally opposed the injustice of the Vietnam War, while Elvis served in the army meekly and had nothing to say. This is just part of Jones' intellectually powerful critique of America here.

    This issue, of war protest or the lack of it, serves as a transition - but is it? - to the then presidential campaigns where as the Rolls Royce Phantom glided along, Bernie Saunders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump were giving speeches. Alec Baldwin is sitting in the Rolls, he who was doing satirical impersonations of Trump, and says Trump will never win the Presidency. Later on the film interviews poor white Presley fans whose votes for Trump helped him become president: they are afraid of losing out on the Dream if they change the prevailing economic system, unseat the oligarchy. They think Trump is like them, not just using them.

    Jarecki's free-association is undoubtedly brilliant, but also crazy, at times, like his leaps from the 1933 film King Kong showing the Empire State Building to Elvis looking at the building in 1950 to retired news commentator Dan Rather meditating on America on the building's roof in the present. Some of the film's voices are keenly analytical, like the Canadian comic and actor Mike Meyers' distinction between the US and his birthplace as being sex appeal. He says Canada stands for "peace, order, and good government," while America makes its need for world domination seem attractive, selling the idea that "democracy" is something Washington has and can impose by force in the countries on which it wages war. (Meyers' anger no doubt reflects Jarecki's own.)

    If Jarecki's scattershot method makes some sense here, it's because the chaos of pop culture somehow does define America today. He settles for an impressionistic version of hard social and political facts, and his film doesn't even, after all, do justice to Elvis Presley, whose gifts as a singer and actual performances are lost in the shuffle of stock film clips and glib generalizations, though the blitzkrieg editing does wonders intercutting instants from Elvis' packaged movie career, an Eddie Murphy stage standup routing, and an in-Rolls song by M. Ward. Where The King sings is where it uses the Rolls Royce as a recording studio for various artists, whose songs are intercut with poetic shots of the long silver car speeding across American highway landscapes.

    The King, 107 mins., debuted in the Special Screening section at Cannes May 2017, showing in a handful of other international festivals, ending in Jan. 2918 at Sundance, selling to the distributor Oscilloscope in advance of that. Its US theatrical release date is 22 Jun. 2018. Current Metascore: 73%.

  2. #2
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    Great stuff Chris.
    I loved WHY WE FIGHT.
    So this one is noted.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Thanks. Then you should see this one from Eugene Jarecki. He has a lot to say.

    Have you watched any big current movies, like Jurassic World, Incredibles 2, Solo, Deadpool 2, Avengers? Last week I enjoyed Superfly and Upgrade. Incredibles 2, which I did see, is appealing and beautiful to look at but I don't think it has the sophistication of the original.. We are awash in remakes. It's summer. That's why, I am glad to be screening films of the NYAFF.

    Incredibles 2, Brad Bird’s sequel to his 2004 superhero adventure The Incredibles, is a case in point: Bird describes it as "just a popcorn film," a fun action movie without elaborate themes or painful feelings.-The Verge
    Other item coming in July, a French film: Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti (Edouard Deluc, starring Vincent Cassel). A film of only average quality according to French reviews (AlooCiné press rating 3.0) but someone said it was Cassel's best performance.


    Still from Gauguin - Voyage de Tahiti : Photo Tuheï Adams

    Was Guaguin an "orientalist" and a #MeTo bad guy? maybe but when I saw the "Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection exhibit at the Fondation Louis Vuitton two years ago I realized how uniquely beautiful his colors are.


    Paul Gauguin, Le Gué, 1901, oil on canvas.PUSHKIN STATE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, MOSCOW



    Click on this for an article in Art News about that show.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-22-2018 at 06:17 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Knipp View Post
    Have you watched any big current movies, like Jurassic World, Incredibles 2, Solo, Deadpool 2, Avengers?

    I've only seen SOLO. I really hate to say it, but movies don't "move" me much anymore.
    It is really REALLY hard to get excited for any film these days.
    I find comic books more beneficial (and more artistically interesting).
    Movies today are almost irrelevant.
    With nobody taking risks and with it all being about box office you have ShitVille.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Things are always in decline. That's they need our attention to set things right.

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    I admire your valliant movie-going Chris. You really are a cinema champ.
    I just hate being ripped off, and every movie ticket I buy is a risk of being ripped off.
    It's gotten to the point where I judge movies on how bad they are, not how good they are.
    I'm more prone to criticize than praise, and that's WRONG.
    There was a time when you couldn't keep me away from a movie theatre.
    Now I don't really give a damn.

    I can hear Stanley Kubrick shouting at the Industry: "Didn't I teach you guys ANYTHING?"
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    I feel that the change is in you, not the movies. (Of course I've valued your crisp prose and strong emotions, whether positive or negative.) Of course there were great eras - see my comments on the original Super Fly and what else was showing in New York at that time. But"How bad they are" is just presetting yourself for disappointment. There are many good experiences to have in cinemas now,and many mediocre ones to be had in the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies,Eighties, Nineties, etc.

    Now, one can see lots more than in the past, even though the number of cinemas has been shrinking. And there are whole countries producing movies we can see that before were not, South America, Africa, the Middle East.

    If you don't go to the movies, that is not going to make things better. You are contributing in your own small way to a decline.

    You are choosing not to go to cinemas, while the opportunity to do so may be vanishing. On another thread I've cited an article by Owen Gleiberman, ace film critic for Variety, about the closing of the twin Magno Screening Rooms near Times Square, in New York. These were the big "commercial" screening rooms that I attended when I was in New York, whenever I got an invitation to do so and could. I loved the experience of going to the edge of Times Square in the afternoon and maybe coming out into the gathering darkness while the lights of Broadway sparkled around me. Since I've had digital cameras (2010 and after) I've always brought a camera for those moments.

    If you had written movie reviews, like me, you'd have gotten invited to screenings. And so you would not have to "waste your money," and you'd have to find another complaint. But unlike some of my colleagues, I relish the opportunity to pay cash money to go to a regular movie theater and buy popcorn and support the system.

    Now more and more as Gleiberman notes, we are being sent online screeners of new films for review, instead of being invited to screenings in screening rooms. I have been told by old hands that there used to be lots more screening rooms in New York. It seemed to me they were exaggerating, that there were still plenty. With the closing of Magno, I see that there aren't.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-24-2018 at 06:21 PM.

  8. #8
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    All points well taken.
    You're right of course, and if the movie-going experience is going the way of the dodo bird that is a shame.
    It's not something I want to see. After being turned down by TIFF in 2009 I had no more interest in free screenings.
    Bam. Zap. It was that quick. Mojo gone for festivals...In hindsight, staying in Vancouver and covering VIFF should've been my plan.
    You Live, You Learn...

    I still have a great passion for movies. It's just I'm looking at the past, going back to the Masters. And we can do that at home nowadays. hahaha
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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