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…or a few words about…a movie about nothing

By Mariusz Ogieg?o

Yes. Despite my previous declarations, I have just watched Sofia Coppola’s latest “work”.

“Priscilla” is, as both the world and domestic media have been shouting for several days now, ” Coppola’s best film since ‘Lost in Translation’ ” or ” A fantastic work, shocking and haunting the viewer from the very first scenes .”

Well, I can agree with that last one. Coppola’s “Priscilla” will haunt me for a long time… because I haven’t watched such a strange, bland and bland film in a long time. Basically, if I were to summarize my review in one short sentence, I would write that… “Priscilla” by Sofi Coppola is a film about nothing. And it’s a very long film, because for a story about nothing, the two hours you have to spend in the cinema are definitely too long.

But also long enough to go through most of the reviews read in your head during the show and sort out some facts from Elvis’s life (read in various books, studies and memories, including Priscilla herself) and at the same time… not lose anything from the image displayed on the screen .

And so one of the reviews I read before going to the screening said that the film keeps the viewer in suspense from the first to the last scene and has fast-paced action. If this is true, then “Harum Scarum” and “Kissin’ Coussins” are real action films in this production! Forgive the sarcasm, but I still cannot understand what was driving the author of the above words.

The film, unlike last year’s project by Baz Luhrmann, drags on mercilessly. Coppola, famous for her ” penchant for unhurried storytelling and showing intimate relationships between only a few characters ,” feeds the viewer with slow, long shots, most of which take place in the bedroom of Graceland (or another house owned or rented by Presley). Priscilla at school – Priscilla at Elvis’ party – Priscilla at school – Priscilla in the bedroom at Graceland – Priscilla at school… and so on and so forth. Until we left Graceland.

Unfortunately, the style of Coppola, considered a master of understatement, in my opinion, fails on the whole in this film. Individual scenes appear on the screen without any coherence. Chaotic. The dialogues are fragmentary. Short. “I missed you” is a sequence that the main character repeats like a mantra throughout the film when Elvis tries to start a conversation with her after returning home. As if she had nothing more interesting to say throughout the entire film. At times you get the impression that you are watching colorful slides and not a full-length film for which someone wrote a script.

And then there are the understatements that leave too much room for the viewer’s imagination. This is a really great solution when the creator of the image wants the characters of his film to remain in the viewers’ memory for a longer time. Like a large group of movie buffs, I also often wondered what the main characters of “Lost in Translation” were talking about in the last minutes of the film. Except it was a fictional story.

And “Priscilla” is the story of real people. There is no room for understatements here. Facts should speak in their place. The other characters in this story should have their say. Unfortunately, this does not happen, which makes “Priscilla” very biased.

When I talked to the title character in 2018, she told me that Elvis, ” like most artists, was very concerned about his career. […] He cared about new material, new songs that people would like to listen to and that he himself would later like to sing .

However, this film shows nothing of the sort. Elvis, seen through the eyes of Sofia Coppola (not even entirely through the eyes of Priscilla), is an empty, capricious and irresponsible star surrounded by a group of yes-men with whom he parties at every possible opportunity. An actor (assuming you don’t know who Elvis was, that’s what you can deduce from watching this movie, because the main character goes to Hollywood quite often) and a singer (I think there’s a reference to RCA and recordings once or twice in the movie, so… the main character is probably Elvis ), who gets angry for no reason, shouts, throws chairs and takes it out on the girl who is in love with him.

Of course, while neither praising nor defending the above behaviors in any way, I do believe that Elvis deserves more of a voice in this film.

During interviews, Sofia Coppola swore several times that it was not a film for Elvis fans as it is now, because after reading her production it seems at least a strange statement to me, because only Presley fans are able to understand most of the threads discussed in it. Because what does “Viva Las Vegas” or the “Comeback Special” shown on the TV screen mean to the average viewer? For the average person, they are just a meaningless insert into this whole strange ” bittersweet story “.

“Priscilla” is, despite a few funny and sometimes touching moments, a very sad movie. Showing how painful the clash of someone’s imagination – an imaginary ideal – with reality can be. “ The image is one thing, the person is another. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up ,” Elvis would say in 1972.

The main character fell in love with her idol, who one day invited her to his world. A world she didn’t know and didn’t understand. And Coppola shows this perfectly. Her heroine in the film is lost, she believes every gossip about her partner’s alleged affairs that appears in the newspapers, she makes scenes because of letters from admirers. As if she didn’t understand at all what kind of person she was involved with. As if she hadn’t seen all those women trying to get even closer to Elvis. As if she didn’t understand the rules of show business at all. Priscilla in the film gives the impression of a teenager who met her boyfriend at the high school prom, not of a conscious woman who got involved with the most popular and desired artist of that time.

And even if Coppola wanted to draw attention to more serious problems with her picture, to encourage the viewer to reflect more deeply, unfortunately… Due to the shallow and lackluster narrative, nothing comes of it.

We learn much more about the life of the famous couple – its ups and downs – from the series “Elvis and Me” shot in the 1980s, based on exactly the same book that served as Coppola’s source for the script. As with the rest of the book itself. .

As for the book itself, well… another argument cited by Polish reviewers that convinced me to change my earlier decision and go to the cinema was its alleged faithfulness to the facts. And there was actually no major surprise here. Everyone knows what the state of knowledge of some of our journalists is, so the above statement, when compared to what I saw on the screen, did not surprise me at all.

Let me just mention a few facts so as not to bore you.

First, the name of the soldier who invites Priscilla to Elvis’s house in Bad Nauheim. In Sofi Coppola’s painting it was Terry West, when in reality it was… Currie Grant.

Still staying in Germany. At the party Priscilla attends, Elvis plays the piano. Only the way he does it is more reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis’s playing than of Presley, who was self-taught and, as one of his associates remembers, played more “stacatto”. Just listen to any home recording CD

It is also untrue that Priscilla remained at Graceland while Elvis was away. Often, as confirmed by numerous witnesses (and as she herself said), she went to Los Angeles, met with friends and attended dance classes.

However, when they were both at Graceland, they sometimes talked to each other. For example, about the movies Elvis made. It’s just that in Coppola’s film, Elvis mentions “Live A Little, Love A Little”, “Double Trouble” and “Tickle Me” in one breath at a time when the action (although in the case of this production it is a real abuse) is only in 1963/1964 (as indicated by the subtitles on the screen in the next shot).

We are convinced at every step that the creators of “Priscilla” did not do their homework and did not familiarize themselves with the topic. For example, when we watch shots of Presley’s performances in the 1970s. Seriously? Did Elvis move like that on stage in those years? Because in my opinion, only his imitators move this way, who want to please their promoters, who want to have at their events a cross between Elvis from the 1950s, frivolously swinging his hips and the 1970s – in the obligatory jumpsuit with a cape (and it’s best if he sings) “Love Me Tender”).

And the icing on the cake. Where did Priscilla finally tell Elvis she was leaving him? Some sources say in the dressing room between Vegas shows. Baz Luhrmann showed that in Graceland and Sofia Coppola showed that in an apartment in Las Vegas….

And so the examples of this “fidelity to the facts” can be multiplied and multiplied.

The only thing that saves the whole film is the great soundtrack, very atmospheric and reflecting the spirit of that era (even though there are no Elvis recordings in it) and the good acting of Jacob Elordi (Elvis) and Cailee Speana (Priscilla). As an interesting fact, it is also worth adding that the mother of the titular Priscilla was played by a Polish actress, Dagmara Domi?czyk. And this is definitely another big plus.

As for the rest… As before, I neither encourage nor discourage a visit to the cinema. I only advise that before buying a ticket, check carefully whether there is anything more interesting in the repertoire on that day than… a film about nothing.

Information provided by EP Promised Land Poland, Mariusz Ogieg?o http://www.elvispromisedland.pl/


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