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Blue Suede Jew (2007)


Morgan Matthews


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Release Date:

16 April 2007 (UK) See more »

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Blast! Films See more »
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Quirky but ultimately has little beyond this to recommend it for
12 May 2007 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Apparently seeking out the position that Louis Theroux has left empty over the last few years, documentary director Morgan Matthews goes to Jerusalem to meet Gilles Elmalih, a 47 year old Elvis impersonator. Gilles is not merely an impersonator but genuinely believes that Elvis is his guardian angel who can be summoned into the body of his teenage son and that Elvis is writing him notes on scrunched-up bits of paper that simply fall from the sky in the family flat.

Following on from his film "Taxidermy: Stuff the World", Matthews produces yet another comic title that served to attract my attention. Like the film on taxidermy, Blue Suede Jew is every inch a "quirkumentary" as it follows Gilles and his family unit who believe without doubt that Elvis lives with him, writes letters and even buys them domestic supplies when they are running low (in a wonderful scene, Gilles wife maintains that Elvis provided some toilet rolls that they did not purchase themselves). This produces an interesting story because it is engaging to see just how delusional the people in the film are.

Sadly this only gets us so far and, like Taxidermy, the film does rather just linger in the quirkiness without ever pushing the subject as a documentary maker (Theroux) would and ultimately leaves us wondering what the point of the film was. In an interview I read that Matthews hoped that the film would not be taken as "exploitative television" but really it would have been useful if he had helped us out a bit with this by either deciding to keep out totally (and just record) or question the belief properly. As it is he falls in the middle somewhere. On one hand he claims that challenging Gilles was "like challenging someone about their religion", which is a bit of a weak argument to sum up the film and even more so when you consider that Matthews arranged for Geller to call Gilles but allows Gilles to believe that Elvis had arranged it all. So he wants his cake and eats it too, which he does but the bigger impact is to take away from the point behind the film.

It is still a solid enough quirkumentary thanks in part to how likable Gilles is but it is worrying how Matthews doesn't seem to be aiming for anything and is rather benefiting from getting entertainment value out of a couple of people who do appear to have some form of mental illness – a path that Matthews doesn't even mention, far less explore. Quirky but ultimately has little beyond this to recommend it for.

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