The King | Chicago Reader

The King

Eugene Jarecki has directed two of the most extraordinary political documentaries of the new century: Why We Fight (2005), a 40-year history of the military-industrial complex, and The House I Live In (2011), exposing the tragedy of the U.S. drug war. This new project may sound a little more fun—the filmmaker takes off in a 1963 Rolls-Royce once owned by Elvis Presley, telling the singer's life story as he rolls through Tupelo, Memphis, Nashville, New York, Hollywood, and Las Vegas—but ultimately Elvis serves as a metaphor for American decline. Rock critic Greil Marcus argues that Presley embodied "the pursuit of happiness," whereas Van Jones and Chuck D. finger the King as a racial coward and a cultural thief. Like the director's other projects, this is intelligent and ambitious, but the cultural insights are too familiar to merit yet another trek through Presley's troubled life.

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