Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Elvis in Acapulco: His Last Chants?

I'm watching Elvis Presley in "Fun in Acapulco," barely. I've got it on Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
on the bedroom TV to which I've also connected the DVD player and my cheapo home theater system. Which means I can also play music CD's on the DVD player. And, unless I mute the TV or switch speaker channels, that means I can get TV and CD sound simultaneously.

Thinking I would just read some magazines, with Elvis as a silent screen star (in fact, in this movie, he does look a little like Rudolph Valentino), I put on a CD of Buddhist music and chants. Title is a little unwieldy, but it deserves to be spelled out: "Tibetan Buddhist Rites from the Monasteries of Bhutan" Volume 1, "Rituals of the Drukpa Order." Recorded by John Levy in 1971, and released by the Lyrichord Discs label (address on the label is 141 Perry St., New York, NY 10014). I don't know if they're in business. Ordinarily, I would make a call to find out, but this is Blogging, not formal Journalism; by definition (as we try to define this), that means a little laxity in reporting in return for freedom of pure, or impure, expression.

The last 30 minutes of "Fun in Acapulco" are almost certainly as bad as the first hour, even with a young Ursula Andress as one of the love interests. Like every other similar Elvis movie (one of his bad Hawaii movies was on the other night too), this is more travelogue than motion picture. When it gets really awful is when Elvis (circa 1962), scrawny and undernourished-looking but very tan, sings in a cantina with a mariachi band. So I turn the sound of the movie down to just the right level that it interacts in counterpoint and at times even harmony, of sorts, with the Buddhist music. So Elvis and mariachi are mixed with a chorus of 17 monks, two conch-shell trumpets [how the conch-shells showed up in the Himalayas I have no idea], two thigh-bone trumpets (that’s what it says: I’ll reserve comment), two long trumpets, two large drums, and a pair of cymbals. It's a good mix, since the brass sounds like foghorns, and Elvis sings like he's in a fog.

In the movie's climactic moment, Elvis climbs up a sheer stone facade to do the famous Acapulco cliff diving thing, the image of a thousand travel brochures and the reason why no one with any sense would go to Acapulco: I mean, is this as good as it gets there? Elvis is nervous: a miscalculation and he dies on the rocks. There is a shrine near the dive spot. Elvis kneels and crosses himself. At that moment, I turn up the level of the Tibetan CD: The monks are chanting with atypical intensity. They are praying with him. Fabulous.

The Elvis movie over, I switched channels. Marlon Brando was on screen, in "One Eyed Jacks," which he directed, starred in, and in which he may or may not have worn a cod-piece. He was kissing a Mexican-looking woman on a beach that looked like it was facing the Pacific Ocean. I kept mixing and matching the Tibetan monks with Brando on the screen, but it didn't work as well as it did with Elvis, who was coasting. Brando, intense in his artistry, however off the mark, was just too much.
(c) 2002 all rights reserved. Feedback? waynerobins@hotmail.com

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?