Elvis: Strung Out
year of production: 2019
country of production: France, Italy
director: Mark Oliver
editing: Mark Oliver
festivals: Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen 2019, Leuven International Short Film Festival 2019
© images: Elvis: Strung Out (Mark Oliver)
1973 wasn't really the best year for the King of Rock'n'Roll. So, 1974 could only be better and his first concerts seemed promising. Then, in July a strange Karate appearance - which could only be outdone decades later by the performance of an overweight Steven Seagal - made people frown. And finally on September 2nd the legendary "Desert Storm" concert happend - the last and therefore biggest of his Las Vegas appearances at the Hilton Hotel in 1974. In a break between songs Elvis picked up rumours that were spread in the tabloids about him. Allegedly he was burned out and addicted to heroin, which is why some concerts had to be cancelled. But, as he points out, he only had the flu. Everything the newspapers wrote was invented. He had never been on drugs in his entire life. Music has always been his one and only drug. he claimed. The problem: Elvis was hopped up on drugs when he gave his sweat-soaked speech.
A self-destructive Elvis becomes all the more mythical
In "Elvis: Strung Out" Canadian Mark Oliver took the iconic pause speech of the "King" and combined it with the recordings of a show from 1970, when Elvis was still in top form. Disguised as a music video, Oliver succeeds in a hypnotic meditation on the star cult in just 4 minutes, underpinned by an infectious funk loop, in which total crash and ecstasy fall into one. The montage juggles with the visual and acoustic pieces. The raging action on stage makes the acoustic performances of a paranoid and neurotic Elvis forgotten, although the near collapse can be clearly heard in the voice. Instead, a self-destructive Elvis becomes all the more mythical.
Construction, deconstruction and resurrection, "Elvis: Stung Out" develops a breathtaking pull from a moment of rugged desolation of pop culture that one cannot escape. An acoustic Elvis deconstructs the visual one and thus only exaggerates it. It's a clash of the titans.
Ultimately, and Mark Oliver tells us about this with the help of the morbid performance of an evening in September 1974. Truth and reality have no place in the circus of pop-cultural vanities. The forces constantly turn into their opposite. Everything is staged and everyone plays along. And so I can't get enough of Elvis either, look at him again and again, moving to the rythm. And suddenly it doesn't matter, if he is strung out or not. I dissolve in the pictures, the beat and lust for life.
This review was previously published in German on FilmGazette.de.Ricardo Brunn