Elvis’ music is one of the most famous in the world, which is why it’s so amazing that Baz Luhrmann’s new film about Elvis uses so much modern music to tell his story. The film was met with praise from critics and audiences, earning 12-minute applause at Cannes this year and knocking Tom Cruise’s “Best Shooter: Maverick” from first place at the summer box office. However, many question Luhrmann’s use of modern music and contemporary performers in the film.
The Elvis movie follows Presley throughout his life, from his birth in 1935 to his death in 1977. The story tells of his rise to fame with the release of his first single “It’s Good” in 1954, followed by the cultural fever that followed. throughout his career until his tragic death. The story is not much different from other biographical films released in recent years, such as the story of Freddie Mercury from Queen in “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the story of Elton John in “Rocketman” (except that the fantastic Elton John is still alive). Nevertheless, Luhrmann stands out with a new film about Elvis, because, unlike other biographical films based on the music of the original artist, Luhrmann’s Elvis is filled with modern artists of almost all genres.
The success of the film led to heated debate about whether Luhrmann should have followed the path of a traditional biopic and relied on Elvis’ extensive music catalog. However, the magnetism of the film is largely born of Luhrmann’s adventure. In fact, two of the most important scenes of the new Elvis movie — the arrest of Elvis and his scene on Beale Street – were created using the talents of modern blues artist Gary Clark Jr. and rapper Kanye West. Modern blues artist Gary Clark Jr. plays one of Elvis’ biggest inspirations, Arthur “Big Boy” Kradup. And although Crudup was important to Elvis’ career (he recorded what became Elvis’ first hit “It’s Good” in 1946), Clark Jr.’s role behind the scenes is no less interesting. In the movie Elvis Austin Butler sings “Trouble” by Elvis, a song that Elvis performed so provocatively that it led to his arrest. However, the style of the original music today seems so docile that it was difficult to convey the emotions that the song could have evoked at that time. That’s why viewers hear Clark Jr. playing his guitar in the Elvis movie version- it helps create the fever and thrill that Elvis’ live performance would cause.
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Luhrmann also ran into problems when he tried to transmit electricity to Memphis Beale Street in an Elvis movie. The scene shows Butler’s Elvis escaping from the musty and commercially saturated world created by Elvis’ tyrannical manager Colonel Tom Parker for the authentic and vibrant world of Beale Street. However, during the filming of this scene, there was not enough life. To remedy this, Luhrmann turned on Kanye West’s song “Black Skinhead” and saw the scene come to life, again using modern music to convey the emotions of the Elvis world.
Taking into account these examples, it becomes clear that the new film about Elvis has become better only thanks to Luhrmann’s musical risk. It is with the help of contemporary artists that Luhrmann can resume the experience that Elvis fans would have experienced when Elvis was a modern musician. In addition, Luhrmann’s choice does not detract from the legend of Elvis, but contributes to it, showing the importance of his musical influence on all musical genres to this day.