It’s the story of a teenager who grows up and becomes an adult in an unusual world. When Priscilla, 14, meets Elvis Presley, ten years her senior, she is very bored on a German Air Force military base, where her father and the singer officiate. A young virgin led, by friends of the star, to the altar of Love Me Tender , the schoolgirl is distantly reminiscent of the daughter of the Emperor of Austria staged by Sofia Coppola in 2006 ( Marie Antoinette ).
Less decadent than the misunderstood archduchess sold to Louis XVI, Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny, best actress prize at the Venice Film Festival) imagines for a time having hit the jackpot – true love, luxury, fantasy – before letting himself be absorbed by the life of the King (Jacob Elordi) who finds himself incapable of consummating their marriage. The film opens with images that have programmatic value: she sinks her little feet with delicately varnished nails into a soft carpet. She fixes a row of false eyelashes at the edge of her eyelid. In her mirror, an Elvis record is reflected… A description in the form of a metamorphosis for a young woman who will, for the next ten years, conform to what her famous husband expects of her.
A variation on adolescence (after Virgin Suicides , Lost in Translation , Marie-Antoinette , Somewhere , The Bling Ring , Les Preies , in short almost all of the director’s work), the film also deals with consumer society , housewives, husbands, the sixties, rock’n’roll, drugs, and tells, through the illusion of the good life, the fear of loneliness and boredom.
The accessory and the illusion
Few filmmakers give the impression of capturing a mood, a feeling, a state of mind on the surface of things as Sofia Coppola does here. Taking on the random chronology, the succession of weak beats, the little music of everyday life, the putting off-camera of the artist’s great hits, it immerses us in the private life of the couple, according to the Memoirs of Priscilla Presley, Elvis and me , published in the United States in 1985. We do not count the bedroom scenes, magnified by the darkness of the French cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, where the lovers, despite a frank complicity, slide towards disaster, starting with the pills given without restriction to Priscilla to sleep, transforming her into Sleeping Beauty for two days.
Beyond the meticulous and splendid reconstruction of Graceland (before Elvis renovated it in 1970 and as it can be visited today), the house serves as a showcase, exhibiting a selection of objects chosen under the shape of a glamorous outfit, along which Priscilla wanders. Nothing is wrinkled, it’s soft, it shines, everything is perfectly arranged. Sofia Coppola has a certain taste for accessories, her cinema is full of inserts on jewelry, handbags, shoes, which give the illusion of happiness within reach. Priscilla seems to live in a doll’s house of which she has become the main protagonist, waiting to be moved, called, entertained – a puppy, a car, a gun to match her outfit -, directed, dressed…
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