Two days before the end of the festival, “Elvis”, the new film by Baz Luhrmann, with Tom Hanks and Austin Butler, gives a rock air to the selection.
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Faithful to his flamboyant style, to his visual power, to his baroque aesthetic, the director of Moulin Rouge and Gatsby the Magnificent (selected on the Croisette in 2001 and 2013), signs with Elvis, a film of 2:40, inspired and nervous , about the rise and fall of an American legend, Elvis Aaron Presley. Better than a biopic, it is an allegory about America in the 1950s-1960s/1970s and the exceptional destiny of a little guy from Tupelo (Mississippi), born on January 8, 1935 and dead, at 42 years old, on August 16, 1976. But before he became one of the most beloved rock stars of his lifetime, the story of his rise and fall goes hand in hand with his deadly collaboration, his toxic fusion could- we say, with his agent, Colonel Parker, who made him his creature, his dollar machine, America's superhero.
This former showman converted to country music tours, this king of tricks and smoking is immediately fascinated by the charisma of the singer born in a black neighborhood and fed gospel and blues as a child. With his cavernous voice and suggestive swaying, he makes girls swoon, frightens parents, unleashes passions and divides a predominantly conservative and puritanical America. It does not take more to become the King in the hands of his manager father and Colonel Parker who will invent large-scale merchandising for him, the sale of objects bearing the likeness of Presley. A man from nowhere, who we later discover is not called Parker and is not a former colonel in the Marines, he led his protege's career with an iron fist, even locking him up several times. years in the golden Las Vegas cage that was his tomb.
To embody these two extraordinary characters, Baz Luhrmann had the good idea to choose a safe bet like Tom Hanks (unrecognizable with his extra twenty kilos), perfect in a counter-intuitive role, the ambiguous, cynical, greedy one of the Colonel Parker, and a young actor who fell naturally into the role of Elvis, Austin Butler, 31, an actor, singer and musician, cracking up when he starts singing on the piano, looking sad , “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” “Black lock on the forehead, devastating smile, sideways glance, the former hippie cowboy of Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), gives substance to his Elvis and even lends his voice in a few songs. Face to face, the veteran Parker and the young Presley are impressive in this kind of common fascination, of Faustian pact which makes the colonel say: “I will be you, you will be me. »
As an accomplished and inventive director, Baz Luhrmann takes care of the rest with his taste for baroque, rhythm and great spectacle. Here we are caught up in a visual whirlwind, a series of fairground-like rollercoasters in which spectacular musical numbers intertwine (ah Little Richard's “Tutti Frutti” sung by the amazing Alton Mason! or the moving Yola in the role of Sister Rosetta Tharpe), archival footage (the King's funeral), Presley film clips (George Sidney's Viva Las Vegas), comics, private life scenes or screen effects divided (split screen), as at the end when Butler's face merges into that of Presley, shortly before his death.
In the tradition of Rocketman on Elton John, presented at Cannes in 2019, this Elvis, who favors show cinema, has every chance of being successful. It gives new life to the King who is reborn in all his glory on the Croisette, forty-six after his death.
Elvis, in theaters June 22.