Thursday, April 19, 2007

'Blue Suede Jew'

A BBC 2 documentary follows an Israeli Elvis Presley impersonator on his journey from the Holy Land to Graceland, and even Uri Geller, the spoonbender, gets in on the action. It's hilarious, but touching too, to explore this obsession of Gilles (Gil) Elmalih. There's more than just the predictable karaoke warbling of 'In the Ghetto' by a chubby wanna-be with sideburns. The family acknowledges that Elvis has left the building...but now communicates with him via paper messages (scrawled in Hebrew!) which the King somehow tosses from heaven onto the sitting room carpet. Living in the West Bank, family becomes convinced that only the King can restore world peace. His divine messages convince them to shlep to Vegas and Memphis. They are chosen.

Though the 79 minute film was completed in 2006, it screened this week in Britain, and has been picked up online. Click here to watch a clip from the Morgan Matthews documentary. Critics loved it.

As the ultimate ersatz Elvis, Elmalih managed to leave his mark in Israel, too. There is a turn-off on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway signposted "Elvis", and if you pull over you're bound to get all shook up at a commemorative gas station and a 50s style roadside diner with clientele as odd as the decor. See this article about the Elvis Inn. Frequently, travellers in Israel are overwhelmed in historical reverie, but chicken-fried Americana from the 50s seems definitely anachronistic in this Biblical landscape.

1 comment:

Benji Lovitt said...

"Don't be cruel, b'seder?"