In his upcoming documentary “The King,” director Eugene Jarecki tackles a subject that is vast in its scope and bold in its import: the rise and fall of Elvis Presley, not as an event in itself but as a metaphor for America.
And he does so in a crazy way: by getting ahold of a Rolls Royce that Elvis once owned and driving it around the country to places that meant something to Elvis, with a succession of musicians playing music in the back seat while pundits, experts and fans weigh in on what Elvis means to them. And he did it during the presidential election of 2016, inextricably linking the fall of Elvis with the rise of Donald Trump.
When the film premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival under the title “Promised Land,” TheWrap called it “big, bold and overreaching, in love with but also skeptical of its own central metaphor of Elvis’ career as a version of America’s own history. It’s the promise of freedom being choked by capitalism and excess, the poor boy who loses himself in a rich man’s life.”
Jarecki, whose other films include the Peabody Award-winning “Why We Fight” and “The House I Live In,” has since trimmed the movie slightly. The new version under the new name will be released by Oscilloscope in June. The trailer, above, premiered on Tuesday — and while it does not include a single image of Donald Trump, the spectre of the America that elected Trump imbues the entire trailer.
In a conversation with TheWrap at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where the new version premiered, Jarecki cautioned about making direct parallels between the president and the King.
“The worst thing that somebody could do is imagine, as has been said to me sometimes, that Donald Trump is somehow related to Elvis,” he said. “Donald Trump is the enemy of Elvis. Donald Trump is an embodiment of everything that destroyed Elvis.
“The commercialization of American life, where everything is for sale, the vulgarization of American life, where the elegances that once defined what is beautiful about the graceful American spirit – all of that was crushed by Donald Trump and his like, and all of that crushed Elvis Presley. And the crushing of Elvis Presley is the crushing of America and the American dream and the American worker and the American Everyman.”
“The King” will open in New York on June 22 and Los Angeles on June 29.