Cannes can't help falling in love with 'Elvis'
Return of the king
Published: May 26, 2022 06:33 PM Updated: May 26, 2022 06:29 PM
Austin Butler and Baz Luhrmann (right) attend the screening of Elvis during the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2022 in Cannes, France. Photo: AFP
Austin Butler and Baz Luhrmann (right) attend the screening of Elvis during the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2022 in Cannes, France. Photo: AFP

Cannes was shaken, rattled and rolled on Wednesday as the world premiere of Elvis rocked the film festival on the French Riviera, in what has proven a vintage year for music-lovers.

The highly anticipated new film is the latest from Australia's Baz Luhrmann, the technicolour maestro behind Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge!.

He wore a rhinestone Elvis belt buckle and a blingy pinkie ring with his tuxedo as he walked the famous red carpet for perhaps the glitziest evening of the 12-day festival.

The movie itself was a typical explosion of color and break-neck editing - the 159-minute running time flying past - as rising star Austin Butler, 30, stepped triumphantly into the blue suede shoes of Elvis Presley.

Butler received unanimous praise in the initial reviews, with Screen Daily saying he recreates The King's performances with "stunning force," while Tom Hanks plays his infamous manager, Colonel Tom Parker, with "oily charm."

"As a tribute from one champion of outrageous showmanship to another, it dazzles," wrote The Hollywood Reporter.

Luhrmann has become a favorite at Cannes, having wowed critics with his debut Strictly Ballroom in 1992, and opening the festival twice, with Moulin Rouge! and Gatsby.

His latest has been warmly welcomed by the family of Presley, who died in 1977 at the age of 42 after a descent into drug addiction, with granddaughter Riley Keough describing it as "a very intense experience."

The King's widow, Priscilla Presley, was a guest at the premiere, along with popstars Kylie Minogue, Shakira and Ricky Martin.

As arguably the world's leading film festival, Cannes seeks a lineup that balances hard-hitting dramas, arthouse experimentation and blockbuster spectacles.

This iteration has seen plenty of Hollywood glamour, with Elvis preceded by last week's launch of Top Gun: Maverick.

Other stars making an impression on Wednesday evening were Sharon Stone in a pair of Elvis-like aviator shades, and Brazilian model Adriana Lima showing off her baby bump in what appeared to be a homage to Princess Leia's slave outfit from Return of the Jedi.

Meanwhile, a selection of more arthouse films are competing for the top prize, the Palme d'Or.

There have been powerful Iranian films about the country's economic crisis and male violence (Holy Spider and Leila's Brothers), a David Cronenberg film featuring gruesome bodily mutations (Crimes of the Future), a film about a legendary Russian composer's secret homosexuality (Tchaikovsky's Wife) and even one starring a donkey (EO).

But no clear frontrunner has emerged from the 21 films in competition, with critics deeply divided over almost every entry.

That has left everyone guessing about who might pick up awards on Saturday night. The decisions lie with the jury, which includes Indian superstar Deepika Padukone, Iran's two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi and led by French actor Vincent Lindon.

The festival has been a feast for music lovers. There were rave reviews for a new documentary about David Bowie, Moonage Daydream - part of a recent wave of innovative films about music legends.

"It's not a biography," its director, Brett Morgen, told AFP.

"The film is meant to be sublime, and kaleidoscopic, and kind of wash over you."

Ethan Coen was also in Cannes to present a documentary about another rock'n'roll pioneer, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Both films eschew expert talking heads in favor of a more immersive experience.

"I don't care what experts say," Coen told AFP at the festival.

"Jerry Lee is a performer so I want to see the performance, not what some expert thinks about it."