Film Review by Patty Papageorgiou-Axford who recently attended the premiere in Brynmawr.
Welsh actor and producer Johnny Owen stars in the true story of Dixie, a music-fanatic Valleys man who moves to London in pursuit of his lifelong dream – to become a famous music band manager.
Searching the internet, he finds a highly promising band who call themselves The Premature Congratulations – young, cocksure and full of potential. Dixie seizes his opportunity and soon is accepted as their manager, plunging into an eye-opening journey through the glamorous and treacherous world of the music industry.
With his family’s blessing and the support of his loving girlfriend Shell (Vicky McClure) the pair eke out a meagre living in a squalid London flat as Dixie ambitiously yet naively chases every avenue possible to get his band noticed. But the closer he gets to his goal, the further he finds himself from the people that matter the most.
The film boasts some well-known names like Martin Freeman and Matt Berry alongside Vicky McClure as well as casting record producer and Oasis manager Alan McGee as himself. Shot in London and Wales, the film also visually juxtaposes the cultural differences between the two locations.
The pretentiousness that largely permeates the music industry comes across with good comic effect, the more extreme characters virtually caricatured in direct contrast to the good natured innocence that drives Dixie forward. Some people acknowledge his passion and respect his efforts, others – including his ex-best friend Horsey (Roger Evans) to whom Dixie turns for support – are only looking out for their own hides. It is a bittersweet but ultimately feel-good journey where Dixie comes to weigh the superficiality of the big city against his home grown family values and love.
Svengali is not entirely new to audiences, although you may not have heard of it – it ran successfully as a highly popular web series, attracting a large online fan base with its tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the London music scene. With an audience already in place, the movie version has been welcomed wholeheartedly – opening in fact right here in South Wales with a world premiere in the Market Hall Cinema in Brynmawr.
It felt fitting in a way, to have what is essentially a Welshman’s story open here and in none other than the oldest cinema in Wales.