The King (2017)
Directed by: Eugene Jarecki | 107 minutes | documentary | Starring: Alec Baldwin, Tony Brown, James Carville, Rosanne Cash, Chuck D, Maggie Clifford, Lana Del Rey, Radney Foster, Patricia Gaines, Mary Gauthier, Emmylou Harris, Ethan Hawke, John Hiatt, George Klein, Ashton Kutcher, Greil Marcus Justin Merrick, Mike Myers, Dale Rushing, Jerry Schilling, Earlice Taylor, Immortal Technique, Linda Thompson, M. Ward, Leo Bud Welch, Kat Wright
‘The King’ is not only an ambitious documentary in terms of length (1h48m). Several problems of today’s America, such as the demise of The American Dream, the divide between rich and poor and white and black, are associated with American entertainment culture and more specifically the figure Elvis Presley, probably the most famous person ever and still evocative.
Eugene Jarecki interviews well-known Elvis fans such as John Hiatt, Alec Baldwin and Mike Myers in a Rolls Royce that once belonged to The King, and does side-by-side research into the biotope of Elvis, born in rural Tupelo, Mississippi and later operating out of Memphis, Tennessee. The latter is the most appealing to the imagination, because: yes, the countryside is declining, racism is still there in the South. Although a Hiatt in Elvis’ Rolls moved to tears is definitely worth it.
Also interesting is the finding that Elvis would never have become so famous if America hadn’t been such an imperial empire. So far The Hague. The link between music and society is an artificial one, and this is most evident in the figure of Chuck D, rapper of Public Enemy. He manages to expose nicely that the American Leitkultur is white through and through and terrified of everything that has a different color, but what the ‘racist motherfucker’ Elvis is to blame for that is the question.
When Elvis is used by Jarecki as a metaphor for America, it comes across as wanted. Rock ‘n’ roll caused a cultural revolution, also in the segregated South, but that was more a development for the better than for the worse. And Elvis played no political role in this, although it is sometimes said that his first name is ‘black’ and therefore emancipatory in character. ‘What do you think I am doing with this movie?’, Jarecki asks a ‘local’. ‘I don’t know what the hell you are doing … and that’s scary’, he replies. Nice images, yes.