King Creole (1958)

He's the king because he can make a crustacean cool.

He's the king because he can make a crustacean cool.

The coolest of all Elvis films for a few reasons, starting with Michael Curtiz. Between Casablanca and King Creole, Curtiz makes his case for being the world’s coolest director. Nicholas Ray, Elia Kazin, Jim Jarmusch, they all owe something to Curtiz. Yet, Curtiz alone is not cool. He’s only cool when he gets the right parts. Here, the parts include a wet New Orleans, perpetually damp, as if soaked in booze. great heavies like Walter Matthau and Vic Morrow, and of course Elvis. Woefully old to be a teenager, except in Hollywood, where teens range from 18-30, Elvis’ age doesn’t matter. His age is as in-congruent as the audio quality of the songs.  Right from the start, the song “Crawfish” announces both Elvis and  magical tone of the film’s music. It hovers on top of the picture, unaffected by locations or physical surroundings. The implausibility of the sound, the sheer obviousness of Elvis’ performance,  the happenstance of his song becoming a duet with a woman (Kitty White) just rolling through the French Quarter doesn’t work in reality.  However, reality doesn’t matter, only coolness matters. But, it has to be a casual coolness, the kind that just emanates from some people. Elvis is cool. Curtiz, perhaps he’s cool too, if not as a person, then as a collector. Coolness after all, can’t be forced or even manufactured. When it is, it rings false, but it can be collected. The parts can be gathered. Cool directors know how to gather coolness. It is not so much about directing people to be cool, than it is knowing what already is cool.

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