Sunday 28 October 2018

ASSASSINATION NATION - London Film Festival review

When the town of Salem is rocked by scandal after the contents of the Mayor's personal hard-drive get leaked by a hacker, everyone starts looking for the culprit before they themselves fall victim. In the firing line is a group of four young women, unaware that the mob are coming for them.

Assassination Nation sets out its stall early on, delivering a Gasper Noe-esque list of potential trigger warnings the film features in brightly coloured text. "Toxic Masculinity", "Sexism" and "Transphobia" are just a few of the hot topic subjects this film goes after. To its credit, the desired outcome doesn't seem to be to just ruffle some feathers and piss off audiences who veer both left and right, but to expose public outrage for all its ridiculousness and ask its audience to put themselves in other's shoes.

At the centre of the film is Odessa Young's Lily, a high school student prone to taking lewd selfies to send to "Daddy". Along with the rest of the school, she and her three girlfriends, Em, Sarah & Bex (Abra, Suki Waterhouse & Hari Nef, respectively) join in with the viral spreading and meme-ification of every new piece of scandal that appears in increasing regularity. Although the poster may feature all four young women dressed in red leather coats (a knowing steal from nod to Japanese exploitation flick Delinquent Girl Boss), this only relates to the later stages of the film when they find themselves in increasing danger from the jeering mob, lead by the police and authority figures who should be protecting them. For the most part Assassination Nation sees the main characters dealing with normal teenage life; school, boys, parties, parents, etc, and for all the doom and gloom of the story, it's nice to see such a supportive group of female friends without it falling back on some typical high school movie stereotypes of bitchiness and in-fighting. I suppose there is some of that present in the film in the Maude Apatow/Bella Thorne subplot, but the core four stand strong together.

These teenagers exist in an age where their every move is published on the internet. The "adults" in the film may think they know what's best for the younger generation, but they are less equipped to pay the price of having their internet search history revealed and having to deal with a small subsection of the community quickly descending into a vocal, violent mob. It is of no coincidence that this film is set in Salem, home of the infamous witch hunts, as both the Mayor and the school Principal face the same braying mob (although under vastly different circumstances), demanding action to match their outrage. The film pulls no punches in asking the audience to question their allegiances and ask what side they would take in the argument, as characters fall victim to the hacker's indiscriminate outings and are branded pedophiles and child molesters without evidence of that. Lily's actions and relationship with "Daddy" have drastic consequences for her family and others, but is she a sexually confident young woman taking advantage of modern courtship rituals, or is she a child being manipulated by an older man into sending pornography?

Assassination Nation is upfront about its satirical approach, delivering its message with all the subtlety of a baseball bat to a cheerleader's head. It often skirts pretty close to sacrificing story in favour of style, but has enough nastiness propelling it forward to paint a troubling picture of a society not too far away from our own, filled with revenge porn and violent groups that wouldn't look out of place in The Purge films. Although not the main focus of the film, I found the most compelling story to be of Bex (Hari Nef), the transgender member of the group. Looking for a nice, normal teenage relationship with one of the jocks but having to deal with how easily mob mentality will dictate people's actions, for all the many outlandish set ups in the film, Bex's story seemed to be the most disappointingly, believably truthful.

Taking stylings from exploitation films and visual cues and colour schemes (good old red, white and blue) from Gaspar Noe and Joseph Kahn, Assassination Nation is a vibrant, nasty, clever film that's tough on the constitution of the prudish and a shit load of fun. Come for the shock value, stay for the marching band cover of Miley Cyrus's We Can't Stop. Assassination Nation is one wild ride from start to finish.


Thursday 18 October 2018

BORDER (GRANS) - London Film Festival review

From John Ajvide Lindqvist, the writer of Let The Right One In, Border stars Eva Melander as Tina, a border control officer with an uncanny ability to sniff out wrongdoers. She lives a boring, mundane life until the arrival of Vore (Eero Milonoff), a mysterious figure who she shares a lot in common with promises to change what Tina thought about who she really was.

What's immediately obvious in Border is that Tina is no regular woman. With a heavy brow and caricatured features that she shares with no one else in her life (until Vore appears), she has grown up considering herself deformed, and unable to find someone who finds her attractive. Instead, she lives with a man who stays at her home all day, breeds muscular dogs and may be taking advantage of Tina's generosity. Things change for Tina when she encounters Vore passing through her security control. Immediately she is fascinated by him and can smell he is unlike anyone she has met before, but strangely familiar. Through their interactions and burgeoning relationship Tina finds out many secrets about herself that explain why she has never felt comfortable in the world she lives in.

Border swings from incredibly dark to incredibly weird, tackling some familiar themes of gender identity and physicality that Lindqvist has explored before in his writing. This is something of a mixed success in the characters of Tina and Vore, as your ability to enjoy this story depends on your suspension of disbelief that they could realistically exist in our world. Their characterisation and performances are extremely good, but then also the prosthetic work on both leads is far from subtle and wouldn't look amiss in a Vic & Bob sketch on a BBC budget. The filmmakers have clearly gone to some lengths to make Tina and Vore appear otherworldly, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that the make-up was occasionally a distraction.

Luckily the performances are very strong, with Melander giving Tina a real sense of growth as a person as she uncovers more about herself. Likewise Milonoff's Vore, who is a unique thrill to watch on screen, even if he looks like a disgusting creature, part ape man, part Aphex Twin, has complete disdain for the human race and may or may not be connected to the dark, dangerous world of child pornography Tina gets drawn into through her job. It's a disturbing subplot that you wouldn't expect to be covered in a typical love story, but then this ain't no When Harry Met Sally.

An off kilter romance with a nose for the bizarre side of life and the tenderest, weirdest sex scene you could imagine, Border goes to the edge and then bounds over it. Some of the subplot themes may on the surface be unpalatable, but at its core this film is about the connection two people can find with each other and the wider world around them. Surprisingly sweet.


Wednesday 17 October 2018

WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOUR - London Film Festival review

Part of this year's London Film Festival is Morgan Neville's touching documentary about one of American television's nicest personalities, Fred Rogers.

If you grew up in the UK, Mister Rogers is best known as one of those ubiquitous American pop culture references made in films, that you never quite understood. Thankfully this film provides the context of who Fred Rogers was, and why he had such an indelible impression on the youth of America for so many years. A presbyterian minister who saw the need for informative children's television, his show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ran from 1968 until his retirement in 2001, his kind and gentle persona teaching young children how to feel about their emotions, covering a wide range of topics like divorce, bullying and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

Using his tiger puppet Daniel Stripe and a host of characters for Rogers to interact with in the three walled set of his house, this was the kind of programming that seems quaint through modern eyes, like part of a bygone era before children were easily distracted by video games and brightly coloured cartoons. I'm aware that I'm sounding like a grandad by saying that, but this documentary makes clear that without Rogers there may have never been progressive, educational children's programming like Sesame Street. The filmmakers are also aware of how easily pastiched Rogers was, featuring clips of Eddie Murphy's affectionate homage on SNL, Mister Robinson's Neighborhood.

This is an extremely endearing documentary that, even if you weren't aware of Fred Rogers before viewing, will have you completely won over by the end. Even if you go in with a sense that there must be some dirt on such a kind and gentle soul, Neville digs as deep as he can to make sure the character of Rogers can't be called into question. The most controversial opinion Rogers had was asking long time cast member (Officer) Francois Clemmons in 1968 to remain in the closet for fear of the scandal it may cause, but as Clemmons attests as one of the key interview subjects here, he never considered Rogers to be an intolerant man and Rogers made right on the times he went wrong.

It's easy to be cynical about Fred Rogers as a subject with his kindly demeanour and trademark comfortable loafers and sweater, and (Academy Award nominee for 20 Feet from Stardom) Morgan Neville's doc is designed to be an uplifting experience, but I defy anyone with a heart not to find the footage of Rogers singing "It's You I Like" to disabled child Jeff Erlanger one of the most touching things you've ever seen. A kindly uncle to all of America's children, it's easy to see why Rogers, who passed away in 2003, has remained such a vital figure in American pop culture. Check your cynicism at the door and allow yourself to be open to the most heart-warming cinematic experience you could hope for, Won't You Be My Neighbour is one of the essential documentaries of the festival.


BAD REPUTATION - London Film Festival review

Screened at the London Film Festival, the new documentary Bad Reputation follows the career of the iconic lead singer of The Runaways, Joan Jett.

Not the most conventional subjects for a documentary, Bad Reputation follows suit with a different approach to telling the story of Joan's life and career. Her time with The Runaways and volatile relationship with one time lead singer Cherie Curry (as portrayed a couple of years ago by Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning in the film of The Runaways) is only the jumping off point for this documentary and is covered within the first few minutes. This film, instead, tells Jett's story after the band had gone and she was blazing a path on her own.

It's indisputable that Jett is a living legend, and a popular one among musicians, lining up to tell anecdotes about her. Chief among them are Iggy Pop, Billie Joe Armstrong, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein and Kathleen Hanna, all happy to shed light on this mysterious and guarded rock and roll figure. There's a number of great moments discussed, from her run-ins with former manager Kim Fowley (described by Iggy Pop as "Frankenstein if Frankenstein was on crack") to hooking up with the 90s Riot Girl movement led by Kathleen Hanna, in many ways the next generation Joan Jett.

Yet despite her being held in high reverence, where the doc falls down is the failure to even try to crack Jett's steely exterior. This is one of those docs that's officially endorsed by its subject, and whilst Jett should be held in high regard, it's clear that there's many avenues that have been left unexplored, presumably due to the demands of Jett and her management. A warts and all biography was never needed, but some more insight into Joan's personal life would have benefitted the film. The bizarre odd couple relationship she has with sometime producer and friend Kenny Laguna obviously has a lot more to it than has been allowed to be told, and in the rare interviews she has with him present he is able to draw a different side out of her. There's nothing wrong with a star of the stature of Jett being protective of her personal life, but the lack of exploration here shows that the whole film has been carefully crafted under her guidance, and is quite benign as a result.

There's still some gems in the archive, like the scenes from Light of Day, the film she made in the 1980s with Michael J. Fox (I need to track that down), and her musical performances have a real energy to them; but as documentaries of rock and roll icons go, this is never more than serviceable.


Tuesday 16 October 2018

MANDY - London Film Festival review

Arriving in a storm of hype about Nicolas Cage's performance, Panos Cosmatos's Mandy screened as part of the London Film Festival and is now on general release.

The first thing to get out of the way is that 'Mandy' is not a film, but rather two, bisected down the middle and separated by a title card bearing the film's name, bleeding onto the screen an hour in. The first part, shown to be called 'The Shadow Mountains, 1983 A.D' is the starter before the main course of Cage led mayhem, and the set up for what is to come. Cage appears fleetingly and has a passive role, the focus (perhaps confusingly, given the title) is on Andrea Riseborough's Mandy, an illustrator and the wife of Cage's lumberjack, Red.

When a religious cult leader and a gang of demonic bikers arrive at their door, Mandy is subjected to Jeremiah's (Linus Roache) rhetoric, some mind expanding hallucinogens and some Carpenters on vinyl. What is most surprising about this section of the film is how slow and trippy an experience it is. Even before Roache and the Hellraiser-esque bikers turn up, Red and Mandy's home life is shown to be darkly ethereal, their bedroom surrounded by huge windows that connects them (spiritually and literally) to the woods outside.

With its array of kaleidoscopic colours and some truly retina expanding visual trickery (most notably in a cross fading conversation between Riseborough and Roache) you find yourself pulled into its trance like nightmare as all manner of horrors wash over you. It's not an altogether unpleasant experience, but if you aren't fully invested in what's going on, it may have the effect of being read a bed time story by someone on a heavy acid flashback.

The film has a clear change of gears when the Cage door is finally opened, fuelled by rage and a secret bottle of bathroom vodka, it's in this back half where all the crowd pleasing moments lie. At this point in his career, Cage has become known for his on screen madness, and although Mandy does contain some vintage Cage-isms including a neck snapping scene that elicited a spontaneous round of applause in the screening I saw, it's just a drop in the ocean of crazy Cage supercuts and far from the unhinged madness word of mouth would have you believe. It's in this second half where the film leans into its sick sense of bizarre humour, not least the very strange appearance of the 'Cheddar Goblin' that, although funny, doesn't meld well with the psychotropic world we've been invited into. It's as if they have hit upon a 'viral' moment by accident and have opted to include it, even to the potential detriment of the film's established world logic.

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words, which is helpful as Cage's Red is definitely more of a do-er than a talker. A lumberjack by trade, when he begins his revenge mission with arrows that will "cut through bone like a fat kid and cake" and a huge, self-forged axe, the demonic forces he faces better watch out. The film makes no excuses for its macho-ness and when Cage is at loggerheads (yes, that's a lumberjack pun) with the demonic bikers, Mandy includes a chainsaw ballet complete with the most audience appetite whetting reveal this side of Crocodile Dundee's knife.

It's worth investing in the film's trippier first half to get the pay off when Cage is set loose. A disturbing, psychotropic nightmare of visual mayhem, despite some flaws in its pacing and logic, Mandy is an experience like nothing else.


Wednesday 10 October 2018

PAPI CHULO - London Film Festival review

One of the sweetest and most peculiar films of the festival, Papi Chulo stars Matt Bomer as Sean, a local weather man who, when forced to take some time off work by his employers to deal with his emotional issues, befriends Ernesto (Alejandro Patino), the Mexican day worker he hires to help repaint his deck. Deciding to leave the work till another time, Sean takes Ernesto on day trips, rowing across a lake or hiking in the hills, much to the befuddlement of Ernesto.

A simple man looking to provide for his family, Ernesto's story is a familiar one. An immigrant, he waits outside the hardware stores along with other workers, waiting to be picked up and used by the upper middle classes as cheap manual labour. It's here that after an on air sobbing fit that required him to take a leave of absence, Sean picks up some paint from the store and Ernesto to help do the work, and either due to his desire to be liked or white liberal guilt, he over-compensates by offering Ernesto drinks and buying him lunch in a manner that makes Ernesto uncomfortable. Sean, a successful gay man with a good career, on the surface lives a drastically different life to Ernesto, but they eventually find some sort of bond despite their different lifestyles.

Matt Bomer has always been a likeable actor, clearly born to play Superman on screen but never given the chance to do so (although he did voice him in the animated Superman: Unbound). Playing man going through an emotional breakdown and mourning the loss of his relationship with boyfriend Carlos, he tries to hold on to the things he holds dearly, calling Carlos's cellphone to leave him messages. It's a bold, moving, deeply tragic but comedic performance from Bomer.

There's a whole heap of things this film comments on. Firstly, the use of cheap labour from across the border by successful white urbanites is nothing new, but here, as Sean uses Ernesto as his sounding board and stand-in therapist he takes things to a whole new arena. After all, $20 an hour is cheaper than hiring an actual therapist. There's also something deeply psychological about Sean hiring a Mexican worker to essentially act as a stand in boyfriend in place of his former beau, Carlos. Freud would have a field day with Sean's psyche. Although it appears that social companionship is Sean's aim, there is something about the curb-side appropriation of a worker that has echoes of prostitution, and this does seem to be a particular commentary on a familiar LA tradition. Just a reminder that this is a comedy at heart, but one that knows there is an inherent issue in it subject matter.

Alejandro Patino is fantastic of Ernesto, finding the balance between grateful employee and passive acceptance that, despite the odd scenarios he keeps finding himself in with Sean, at least he's earning money. As the story goes on, it's also clear that Ernesto is starting to enjoy himself in this bizarre Pretty Woman arrangement, without the sex, of course. There's a comedy of awkwardness between this new odd couple that doesn't go unnoticed by onlookers, pointing out that they have "a Driving Miss Daisy thing going on", which only makes Sean's over-compensation spike more. In one particular scene, Ernesto's wife gets to meet the strange American man that's been paying for her husband's company, and although the set up is one born of tragic desperation, at least she's able to see the funny side of things.

The success of this film rests solely on the charm of Matt Bomer and his interactions with Ernesto. As an unlikely pairing as they may be, the friendship they develop is incredibly sweet. One of the film's standout scenes sees Sean and Ernesto break the language barrier, riding in a taxi home singing along to Madonna's Borderline, the joy of the song and the relevance of the title not lost on either of them.

An unconventional bromance with terrific performances from Bomer and Patino, Papi Chulo is a film that may have been made on a low budget, but manages to succeed by getting its characters right, surpassing any budgetary limitations with genuine heart.


Saturday 6 October 2018


With just three days left on his probation, Collin (Daveed Diggs) sees a young black man gunned down in the street by a police officer (Ethan Embry). Knowing that speaking up about what he saw may jeopardise his imminent freedom, Collin turns to his friend Miles (Rafael Casal) to be his council and to keep him out of trouble. Unfortunately for Collin, the volatile Miles, frustrated by their increasingly gentrified neighbourhood and the injustices he sees around him, is a powder keg ready to go off at any moment.

Best known for his role in the original production of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway phenomenon Hamilton, over the last few years Daveed Diggs has been building a list of TV credits (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Black-ish, the upcoming Snowpiercer TV series) and onto the big screen with this, written and produced by himself and co-star Rafael Casal and taking place entirely in his native Oakland, his most personal role to date. A commentary on the gentrification that is happening in many predominantly black neighbourhoods, Collin and Miles work for "Commander Moving", literally making a living by helping to take residents out of the area to make way for new hipsters to move in.

Whereas Collin is willing to bite his tongue and just wants to see out the time remaining on his probation (his jail time the result of a violent attack he was a part of when working as a doorman), Miles, a white man who was also born and raised in the area, is more vocally against the encroaching threat and feels something needs to be done to claim back the area they call home and stop their culture from being appropriated. This is most obvious in the scene where Miles and Collin end up at a hipster party where the new owner of the house is now sporting the same neck tattoo as Miles, leading to Miles violently lashing out when his credibility is called into question by a fellow Oakland resident.

Blindspotting has a number of funny moments coming from the relationship between Collin and Miles. It is a buddy comedy of sorts and feels like a throwback to other knockabout comedies like the Friday series (even Collin's hair has a 90s vibe to it, worn long and braided), particularly in the earlier scenes of Miles hustling his way around town selling old hair straighteners and sail boats, although its political concerns are more contemporary. In one of the most thought provoking scenes in the film, we see a heated interaction between Collin and Miles about what racially charged words the white Miles is allowed to use in reference to Collin, a black man. It's an interesting and well played argument that Miles, uncomfortable using the N-word, still struggles to see why he can't say it, and understand that although they may be from the same neighbourhood, Collin's world is different to his. Miles, a danger to himself and others and stupid enough to have a gun on him, does not understand the privilege he as a white man has to act out and do stupid things without the same risk of police reprisal or serious jail time Collin would face. It's a great summation of the racial politics of the film that highlights the difference between them as seen by society, and crucially the police, and superbly acted by Diggs and Casal.

For the most part it works, and the slightly jarring feeling you get when Diggs starts to break into verse (making use of the skills he became known for in Hamilton) are gone by the film's emotional climax where he uses his powerful vocal delivery to confront the brutality that has been plaguing him for the film. As is to be expected for a story so focused on the relationship between Collin and Miles, the female characters are left largely in the background, which is a shame as there's some interesting dynamics that could have been better explored, particularly with Miles’s family life.
When viewed as their separate elements there's so much to admire about Blindspotting, but collectively these tonal shifts make the film an occasional uneven ride. Its success is largely dependent on the chemistry and friendship that Diggs and Casal have on screen together, and carries a message that goes much deeper than you'd expect.


Wednesday 3 October 2018


Directed by her former St Martins College classmate, Matangi Maya M.I.A digs into the outspoken pop star's personal history, from early beginnings in Sri Lanka to arriving back in the UK in the early 90s as a refugee, and finding herself through music.

If all you know about Maya is her single Paper Planes (which was everywhere in 2008) and her controversial appearance during Madonna's half time Super Bowl show (where she extended her middle finger towards the camera and gave conservative America a new target), that's probably not entirely your fault. Although she is probably one of the most politically outspoken pop stars there has ever been, what may not be known is much about her as a person, partly down to pop star mystique and partly due to her insistence on controlling her own image. Raised in Sri Lanka where her father was the founder of a Tamil resistance group, she and her siblings had to flee to the UK with their mother when the situation got too dangerous. It was here in the UK where she cultivated her eclectic love of musical styles, taking influences in like a sponge.

With its VHS footage of her dancing in her teenage bedroom, it's almost too easy to say this film's early scenes share a lot of the DNA of Asif Kapadia's Amy, where Maya discovers herself and her western identity through a love of music, and also of recording herself. Originally planning on having a career as a filmmaker, this documentary is composed of the hours of footage Maya recorded in her teens and twenties, handed over to director Steve Loveridge to compose this montage of her life. It's in this footage where she reveals many surprising points about her life, including the mind boggling involvement of Justine Frischmann from Elastica in shaping her early career as a visual artist. It's also clear from the footage that 16 year old Maya was destined for two things, to be a star and to be an activist.

The film takes all of these pivotal moments in Maya's life and remixes them, for example following her album of the year award win in the early 2010s is followed by a jump back to her travels to Sri Lanka in 2001. It hammers home the context of how far Maya came and the things she saw that sculpted her career as a bad girl pop star and activist. There's a powerful political tone to the film, with the troubling treatment of Maya by the mainstream American press in a time of rising right-wing ideologies, accusing her of supporting terrorism and hounding her out of America after she 'flipped the bird' on live TV to millions.

If there's anything outrightly negative to say about the film, it's that it's a few years too late to carry the cultural relevance it wants. It would unfair to imply that Maya carries no cultural cache, as that simply isn't the case; but she is not the cause celebre she once was and the film's urgent social and political commentary may arrive somewhat muted by missing out on M.I.A's huge wave of popularity. Hopefully this doc will re-establish her as a vital act, as this proves above almost anything that the strong willed and ferocious Maya/M.I.A is the kind of pop star the world needs.


Tuesday 2 October 2018

THE KING review

Directed by Eugene Jarecki and produced by Steven Soderbergh, this new documentary travels around some of the key places in Elvis Presley's life, asking a number of well known faces their opinion of him and his legacy and exploring his celebrity as a metaphor for the story of America.

Documentaries about Elvis must number into the hundreds, all treading over the same highs and lows as the previous. It's refreshing then that The King isn't really a film about Elvis at all. Sure, it's called The King and Elvis is the central figure in the film, but Jarecki, most known for his deep dives into political and social injustices Why We Fight and The House I Live In, goes out of his way to explore beyond the boundaries of that one man. Using an old Rolls Royce that Elvis once owned as a time capsule/time machine for a number of fans and detractors, Jarecki captures some candid and controversial opinions about the man they called The King and the country he called home.

The participants range from those closest to him ("Elvis was my best friend. I don't know if I was his best friend, but some days I was"), to child stars like Emi Sunshine, raised in his long reaching shadow, to the incredibly honest Chuck D who, in a frank discussion of Elvis's racial appropriation, says that Elvis's success was down to him "selling a black style with a white face". Ethan Hawke is another famous face who is honest about his own wavering admiration of Elvis, along with Ashton Kutcher whose personal reflection on the nature of celebrity is interrupted by celeb spotters passing by on a tour.

Spiked with a number of musical performances, this candid commentary which is presented fairly and even-handedly by Jarecki, is sure to ruffle some feathers among the hardcore Presley fans who, even in 2018, easily number in their millions. The question surely is, on a scale of casual appreciation to Vegas-era jumpsuit owner, what level of Elvis fan will this film appeal to? To be honest, although it may not be saying anything that hasn't been said before and is not the muck raking it first seems, this appreciation/vilification will anger hardcore fans, even if their voice is represented in the film. So why make such a brutally honest film? Well, Jarecki is only mildly concerned with telling Elvis's story. It's the important cultural and political milestones that he lived through, and the current state of America that Elvis hasn't witnessed that are Jarecki's focus.

Chief among the political milestones mentioned is the civil rights movement that, as evidenced here, Elvis stayed noticeably quiet on. Given his musical tastes and clear appreciation of black culture, some of the commentators don't hold back on chastising Presley for not using his influence for good when it mattered the most. Filmed during the run up to the US election, it is obvious that the narrative of this film has been found in the editing process, post November 2016, with many choice soundbites ringing as loud as one of Elvis's greatest hits, "If Elvis is your metaphor for America, we're about to O.D.". Another statement (that he should have known would come back to haunt him) comes from Alec Baldwin, who whilst riding in the back of Elvis's Rolls Royce through the streets of NYC, firmly states that "Trump is not going to win". The duality of Elvis's Las Vegas residency leading to his demise and Trump's rise through Las Vegas Casino and hotel ownership is not lost on this film.

Elvis is undoubtedly a key totem and as American as apple pie and Route 66, but despite many troubling parallels it's not always the easiest sell to claim that his charismatic rise and eventual bloated fall are indicative of America's ongoing issues. There's a sense that the film is aware that it's pushing the boundaries of what it can achieve with this conceit, but you have to commend Jarecki for exploiting and exploring the most obvious parallels, delivered with a wink towards the camera that seems to hope that America can learn from the tragic lessons left behind by one of its most famous sons.

A compelling and well crafted piece of filmmaking, The King is an Elvis documentary that's not just for purists; in fact, an ambivalent view of the man and his legacy may give you tickets front row and centre for this show.