Venice Film Festival: Priscilla by Sofia Coppola, a story of love and above all of control

Priscilla comes out of the fitting room wearing a brown patterned dress. She remains static waiting for a comment. Elvis Presley and his acolytes, sitting opposite her on a sofa, size her up from head to toe. The verdict falls: “I hate this color,” says the King grumpily. Reminds me of the army! » Like in a teen movie from the 90s, the heroine of Sofia Coppola’s film goes through the makeover test. The only difference is that she seeks to find favor in the eyes of her husband and not the queen of high school. Here, clothing is a tool of control within the couple. We shape the other in our image, in a purely narcissistic gesture.

Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla.

This scene itself answers the question on some lips when Sofia Coppola’s project was announced: “Do we really need a new Presley movie?” » The director presents her feature film at the Venice Film Festival, a year after the release of the foil Elvis of Baz Luhrmann. The film, which earned Austin Butler an Oscar nomination for best actor, retraced in a fairly classic way the glory and fall of America’s idol. There is a real fascination in seeing two such different filmmakers tackle the same subject. Sofia Coppola’s film is as intimate as Luhrmann’s was spectacular. As the title – and the entire marketing campaign – already suggested – the filmmaker offers an alternative version of the story. She centers the story on the wife of the king of rock and roll by adapting her biography Elvis and Me. Or how the singer set his sights on a girl, barely 14 years old, who would become his partner in 1967. The rest is part of history: they had a daughter, Lisa-Marie, in 1968, before divorcing in 1972.

From the first minutes of the film, Sofia Coppola leaves her mark: Priscilla puts on her false eyelashes, paints her lips red and places her varnished feet on the soft carpet. All to the rhythm of the song “Baby I Love You” by the Ramones. Ode to beauty, demonstration of performative femininity. We think back to the dressers filled with perfumes of the girls of Virgin Suicidesor to the band of Bling Ring robbing celebrity wardrobes. Another favorite of the filmmaker: depicting the transition to adulthood and all the associated troubles. Throughout the first part, Sofia Coppola immerses us in the mind of a young girl who is fading and experiencing the world for the first time. She captures the excitement of the first emotions, the fantasy of every teenager: going out with her idol, played by the charismatic and dark Jacob Elordi (Euphoria). She also transcribes this relationship with time so particular to these ages, using repetitive montages or everyday scenes. He quickly becomes the center of her world, the object of all her obsessions.

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