wed 22/05/2024

DVD/Blu-Ray: Priscilla | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-Ray: Priscilla

DVD/Blu-Ray: Priscilla

The disc extras smartly contextualise Sofia Coppola's eighth feature

Love me tender: Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi as Mr. and Mrs. PresleyMUBI

There’s a scene in Priscilla where Elvis stands above his wife, who is scrambling to put her clothes in a suitcase. Priscilla has just confronted him about a letter she found from the actress Ann-Margret, confirming her suspicion that the King of Rock'n'Roll has been unfaithful. Elvis's legs in their white trousers tower before her like the pillars of Graceland.

This is just one of the many memorable images in Sofia Coppola’s delicate portrayal of Priscilla Presley, now available on Blu-ray and DVD. In the context of Coppola’s oeuvre, which includes such gems as The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, and Marie AntoinettePriscilla is a dark pearl on a satin cushion.

Evocative images have always been central to Coppola’s work, as she explains in a recorded conversation with Richard Curtis, one of the disc's extras. Instead of storyboarding, she uses photographs to guide her directing.

Stills included with the disc emphasise this: Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) peering out of a car window: Elvis (Jacob Elordi) in a black turtleneck kicking his feet up with a guitar. The backlit shot of their wedding kiss already feels like a classic.

As Coppola explains in the conversation, an overarching theme of her work is that wherever there’s a world, there’s a girl trying to navigate it – whether that world is Versailles or a hotel bar in Tokyo. Her interest in the complexities of teenage girls drew her to adapt the script for The Virgin Suicides as well as imagine Marie Antoinette as a Converse-shod teen. It makes sense Coppola gravitated towards adapting Priscilla Presley’s autobiography Elvis and Me, and it makes even more sense she didn’t keep the title. 

This story in the hands of a lesser director could have been very different. It could have been framed as a grooming story and it would have the facts to back it up: A powerful man plucks a child from her home, slips her a steady stream of pills, and keeps her as his virginal bride. But Coppola treats her subject with a sisterly sensitivity and respect, aware that casting her as a victim also removes her agency.

Coppola intimately captures the young couple’s days in bed and the fun they had together shooting guns, riding bumper cars, and gambling. But she casts a darkness over the film by backlighting interiors to make them claustrophobic and stuffy, qualities accentuated by the drab colour grading. Graceland never feels like anything but a prison. The uncomfortable truth that pleasure and confinement can co-exist is what Coppola is interested in. In the final scene, Priscilla drives out of Graceland for the last time, soundtracked by Dolly Parton singing “I Will Always Love You”.

Another extra is the mini doc The Making of Priscilla directed by Liv McNeil, an 18-year-old filmmaker whose three-minute short Numb – about the monotony of teenage life during the pandemic – went viral in 2020. Coppola has said many times that growing up on film sets is the best possible film school, so extending the opportunity to McNeil to follow the production was a nice gesture.

The way McNeil frames the interviews and the quirky moments she captures show her eye for detail, and Coppola's undoubted influence on her. But the best moment is when Coppola’s teenage daughters visit the set. Uninterested in their mother’s directing, they have their minds set on one thing: getting a photo with Jacob Elordi.

An overarching theme of Coppola's work is that wherever there’s a world, there’s a girl trying to navigate it


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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