I’m looking forward to finally seeing Eugene Jarecki‘s The King within the next few weeks. I’ve missed it twice so far — a somewhat longer version that premiered at last May’s Cannes Film Festival under the title The Promised Land, and a tightened version that played Sundance ’18 under the current title. Oscilloscope will be releasing Jarecki’s doc “later this year,” according to Variety‘s Dave McNary in a piece that ran on 1.17.
Jarecki says the Cannes version “wasn’t finished” and that people who’ve seen both versions have found it “hugely changed.”
Condensed logline: “A musical road trip across America in Elvis Presley‘s 1963 Rolls Royce, and a doc that explores how a country boy lost his authenticity and became a king while his country lost her democracy and became an empire.”
Extended logline: “Featuring cameos from the likes of Alec Baldwin, Chuck D, Emmylou Harris, Ethan Hawke and Mike Myers and set 40 years after Presley’s death, the doc is about Jarecki recalling the country Presley left behind. From the deep south to New York, Las Vegas and beyond, a tapestry of luminaries and unknown Americans join the journey, expressing themselves in words and song.”
Excerpt from David Ehrlich’s Indiewire review, filed on 5.20.17: “A documentary as sprawling and brilliant and flawed as the country it traverses, The Promised Land is a fascinatingly overstuffed portrait of America in decline.
“In the process, it’s also (a) a biography of the 20th century’s most famous musician, (b) a story about how a man became king of a democratic nation, (c) a nuanced analysis of cultural appropriation in a multi-racial society, (d) a southern-fried rock n’ roll performance piece, (e) a horrifyingly sober look at the rise of Donald Trump, (f) a closed-casket funeral service for The American Dream, (g) the best recent film about how the hell we got here and more. So much more.
“It’s the latest project from a filmmaker who has always been obsessed with the forces that fuel America (watch 2005’s Why We Fight for a perpetually relevant dissection of the military-industrial complex) and who always returns to the same one: Money.
“Forget the Matrix — it’s the invention of happiness that blinded us to the truth. The rich got richer and the poor help them do it. Jarecki doesn’t argue that the American Dream is dead; he argues that it was never alive in the first place — that we were all lobsters in a pot full of water that was boiling too slowly for any of us to notice. And now it’s time for dinner. Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States. Elvis has left the building.”
Jarecki: “The country in many ways faces a very similar choice about its own life that Elvis faced about his. We face similar challenges in the way our grandeur, our authenticity, our democracy has been undermined and threatened by capitalism, by money, by the power. The money and the power unraveled Elvis and I think it runs the risk of totally unraveling us unless we honor the example of his death and live up to something better than that.”