Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ Debuts to 10-Minute Standing Ovation at Cannes Film Festival

Elvis premiere Cannes Film Festival baz luhrmann review austin butler

Baz Luhrmann‘s Elvis is officially a hit at the Cannes Film Festival.

Following the film’s global premiere at the Lumiére Theatre, the audience offered up a 10 minute standing ovation, shouting “Bravo!” to Luhrmann and the film’s stars — Austin Butler, Tom Hanks and Olivia DeJonge — who were in attendance. Elvis Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, who DeJonge portrays in the film, was also at the premiere.

Luhrmann was visibly emotional as he addressed the crowd’s rapturous applause, noting that he’d had “a bit of an epiphany”, about his relationship with the Cannes Film Festival and the impact it had on his life.

“Thirty years ago my wife [Catherine Martin] and I made a little film called Strictly Ballroom,” Luhrmann explained, telling the audience that the one exhibitor who had given a cinema to screen the film on told him it was “the worst film [they had] ever seen”, and that he’d “ruined the career of Pat [Thomson]”.

“Anyway,” Luhrmann continued, “we went up the coast and I had very long hair. We were staying in a trailer park, and I was saying, ‘This film thing is never really going to work out,’ so I started shaving my hair off and I got a call on the telephone and it was a Frenchman.”

The person calling was, Luhrmann revealed, Pierre Rissient from the Cannes Film Festival, offering him a screening.

It was in the Palais Cinema at Cannes that Luhrmann found his audience.

“[We] were in this Palais,” Luhrmann recalled, “and at the end of the performance, I remember a security guard came over and said, ‘Monsieur, from this moment on, your life will never be the same again.’ And it wasn’t.”

Luhrmann’s relationship with Cannes has been solid ever since, and to date, he is the only director to have opened the Cannes Film Festival twice in his career, with Moulin Rouge! in 2001 and The Great Gatsby in 2013.

Of Elvis, Luhrmann said that he “really believed that we would come to Cannes”, despite the COVID setbacks the film endured during production.

“The film was shut down and it was never going to happen, but for the bravery of Tom [Hanks] to come back, and the bravery of this cast and this crew to go on through COVID and finish this film,” Luhrmann said.
“And we are back in Cannes. And to see these streets so full of people who love movies of every form of life, every kind of movie, says so much more about what this place means and what it means to be back in the cinema. For that we are eternally grateful, Cannes… All I can say is, merci beaucoup, merci beaucoup.”

As for the critics, the main takeaway is: Elvis is everything you’ve come to expect from a Baz Luhrmann film, and it’s up to you to decide if that’s for you or not.

David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter explains:

“How you feel about Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis will depend largely on how you feel about Baz Luhrmann’s signature brash, glitter-bomb maximalism. Just the hyper-caffeinated establishing section alone — even before Austin Butler’s locomotive hips start doing their herky-jerky thing when Elvis Presley takes to the stage to perform “Heartbreak Hotel” in a rockabilly-chic pink suit — leaves you dizzy with its frenetic blast of scorching colour, split screen, retro graphics and more edits per scene than a human eye can count. Add in the stratified, ear-bursting sound design and this is Baz times a bazillion.”

Deadline’s Pete Hammond called Elvis a “visual and vocal feast of a movie”, calling Butler an “ideal choice” to play Presley, both “visually and vocally”.

Hammond continued: “Butler thrillingly succeeds, especially in the film’s first half, with an authentic rhythm that makes us wonder what greater heights Elvis could have climbed had he not succumbed to the dark side of his own fame”.

Meanwhile, Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman wrote: “Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a fizzy, delirious, impishly energised, compulsively watchable 2-hour-and-39-minute fever dream — a spangly pinwheel of a movie that converts the Elvis saga we all carry around in our heads into a lavishly staged biopic-as-pop-opera”.

Elvis will be in HOYTS Cinemas from June 23, 2022.

Keen to find out what other biopics are in the works? Read this next: A Beginner’s Guide to the Many (Many) Biopics We Can’t Wait to Watch

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