Posts Tagged ‘ Svengali ’

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013


Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013


Well that is it for another year then. The A-List stars have departed whilst the opening and closing galas provided a maelstrom of dramatic flourish, flamboyance and glamour to our usual grey days and the momentum of the event provided ceaseless conversations amongst the locals. Except none of the former really happened did it?

 In fact the whole event passed pretty much unnoticed to local residents- and even to me who was a participant- and if pushed for a comment many would even have failed to notice it was actually taking place. Matters weren’t even helped by the fact the weather was remarkably pleasant with sunshine days and warm balmy evenings being the norm. Compare and contrast with last year when it rained torrentially and incessantly.

 The ultimate disappointment though must lie in the choice of movies selected with few of the films making too much of an impression either way. If honest I must admit the best film I saw during the whole thing was the 1971 Richard Fleischer classic, shown as part of a retrospective, 10 Rillington Place starring a suitably creepy Richard Attenborough as serial killer John Christie. It was the only film among the many I attended that held the audience in its spell throughout with a tension which was palpable; a matter confirmed when at a crucial moment I tore my eyes away from the action to observe an almost trancelike state audience caught up in the drama. I witnessed nothing like this sort of effect at the many new films I attended.

Mind you this may be because I attended mainly press showings but everyone knows how cynical a group of film critics can be. I am not sure this still applies to the younger ones who appeared to be barely out of diapers but wore their miserabilist tendencies in plaid with carefully selected geek chic glasses.

 Of the new films premiered the best, in my opinion, were Svengali, The Great Hip Hop Hoax, Oh Boy, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks and a Russian offering, Betrayal. The latter I haven’t got around to reviewing yet but it is an Almodovar styled film with the vivid colours and fiery passions replaced with Soviet chill to disorientating effect. The plot is highly implausible and relies on the viewer’s suspension of belief, but somehow this works to its advantage as opposed to its detriment.

 The opening film Breathe In starring Guy Pearce and the patriotic, set in Glasgow, closer Not Another Happy Ending with Karen Gillan were slightly underwhelming if the truth be told. As were the opening and closing parties which followed if I am being even more honest. In fact the best party I attended during the twelve day duration down as the most memorable film festival of recent times it is also not the most forgettable was nothing to do with the film festival but was held in an empty art studio with a bunch of non celebrities who could show the organisers of these stilted industry affairs how it should be done

 On the plus side the event was still a step in the right direction away from the low key efforts of 2011 which abandoned all parties and celebrity attendances. It also had the best and most consistent weather of any Scottish festival in recent years and perhaps this onslaught of sunshine distracted from the event as who wants to sit in a darkened cinema when it is sunny outside. Particularly to a nation as deprived of vitamin D as us Scots are.

 Now that it is all over however I must say that the best summary I can offer is that although 2013 will not go!



Just An Observation Friday June 21st


 This week I have been mainly kept busy with the Edinburgh International Film Festival which officially started on Wednesday, although I have been attending press screenings since Monday. I must admit I was a little underwhelmed by the choice of opening film, Breathe  In, which starred Guy Pearce as although it was competent enough-the performances and cinematography are quite outstanding- it just didn’t resonate on any real emotional level.

 In some ways it was similar to the opening party held at the NationalMuseum on Wednesday night which despite being a red carpet affair failed to attract any major big names or make it onto the Scottish News. This contrasts with the new Brad Pitt film World War Z which although only filmed in Glasgow and premiered in the same evening as the Edinburgh event managed to secure a five minute news slot despite also having no major stars attending. Personally I thought this was a pretty poor show and someone in PR deserves to have their butt kicked for failing to secure the Festival with some much needed publicity.

 Of the films I have seen Svengali is the one which stands out so far. A pastiche/parody of the rock industry seen through the eyes of a modern day Billy Liar it is extremely acerbic, witty and even when it lapses into cliché and caricature still has something to recommend it. Showing today (Friday 21st) and tomorrow it is definitely worth catching.

 Elsewhere a documentary about growing old on the gay scene, Before You Know It, is also a worthwhile film. Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring is probably one of the bigger films premiering at the festival this year and although I haven’t had time to post a review yet it is a decent film focussing on a bunch of Los Angeles brats whose sense of entitlement to a celebrity lifestyle is so overwhelming they set out to steal it-quite literally- from the celebrities themselves. The East starring Alexander Skarsgard- Eric from HBO’S ‘True Blood’- about the moral dilemmas and questions raised by a group of Eco Terrorists is also worth catching as it is a stylish thriller which leaves many issues unresolved and is all the better for deploying this tactic.

 Other sad news came through this week that the great actor James Gandolfini had passed away at the age of 51. Best known for his role as Tony Soprano in ‘The Sopranos’ which was probably one of my favourite TV shows of all time and Gandolfini was instrumental in its success. Showing a different side to the life of a gangster we were able to empathise with many of his decisions whilst still realising that often the moral implications of what he did were wrong but somehow still justifiable. It also had the best ending to a final episode ever and with Gandolfini’s parting any chance of a revival will be laid to rest alongside him. Tony Soprano may sleep with the Fishes but may James Gandolfini-who went onto give strong performances in many films with The Man Who Wasn’t There, Killing Them Softly and Zero Dark Thirty among them, but it was as Tony Soprano that he secured his legacy- rest in peace.

 That is it for this week as I have to be at the cinema for press screenings later this morning. I must say I have observed that the majority of film reviewers are cut from the same cloth as far as I can see. That cloth being a check shirt, faded denims, converse and geek chic specs with facial hair an optional extra-for both male and female- as well as an overwhelming sense of their own importance. Well at least they are keeping Zara and RiverIsland afloat with their individual sense of fashion.

They also seem to wear a sense of self importance which means that after a film they have to check their phones whilst the credits are still rolling and thus filter out of the cinema without exchanging thoughts or even glances with anyone else as they are so wrapped up in their own  bubbles. When did everyone become so important that they believe that being incommunicado for a mere hour and a half means others must be so desperate to get hold of them? Perhaps the real life brats in Sofia Coppolas The Bling Ring are not so different after all.




Svengali is that rare thing, a film at a film festival that is actually enjoyable and a pleasure to sit through. Directed by John Hardwick and starring Jonny Owen- also responsible for the screenplay- who is ably supported by the always reliable Vicky McClure, the film is a charming insight into the rock and roll dream as seen through the hopes and eyes of an eternal optimist. Although nothing in this film withstands too much scrutiny this is irrelevant as the characters and acting performances carry it-and the audience- along with its insouciance and humour.

 Dixie (Owen) is a Billy Liar-esque character who dreams of discovering a band,moulding them and taking them on the route to stardom in the style of a latter day Brian Epstein or more correctly-considering the film’s title and subsequent accusations levelled at him by the Sex Pistols- Malcolm McLaren. After hearing a band called the Premature Congratulations-later shortened to The Prems- he believes he has found his musical gold and so with his trusty girlfriend Shell (Mc Clure) in tow he departs his native Wales and heads to the bright lights of London to follow his dreams of creating the next big musical thing.

 What follows next is a catalogue of disasters which rather than hurrying along his failure somehow conversely conspire to take him to a position where he can pursue his ambitions and prove to the world that his intuitions in such matters are beyond doubt. Along the way he suffers rejection from those he hopes to rely upon but somehow manages to find support from the unlikeliest of corners-Alan Mc Gee makes a cameo appearance and spots that Dixie may actually be a true rock and roll believer in a world where such traits no longer count and have been replaced by suits and ‘the industry’- all the while charming everyone he encounters.

 Whilst the characterisations of the industry people Dixie encounters are heavily shaded with caricature and cliché they are also poignant and playing them for laughs is perhaps the best way Hardwick could have directed his cast. Particularly notable are Martin Freeman and Maxine Peake as a couple who own a record shop and who employ Dixie –for a solitary day as it transpires- and Morwenna Banks as a particularly feisty record company executive.

 The film really belongs to Owen though and his portrayal of Dixie as a likeable and credible character is what keeps you rooting for him throughout. At the films denouement when it feels as if all his dreams have been shattered  he still manages to evince such a sense of positivity and invincibility so you know that whatever happens he will never be thwarted in living his life exactly as he wants to, no matter how much anyone else lets him down or stands in his way.

 Svengali is definitely one of my highlights of this year’s film festival so far- already I am eight films in- and it provided more than a little light relief. Great script, great characterisation and outstanding performances all held together with a well thought out sound track-any film which deploys Mott The Hoople’s ‘Sea Diver’ is more than okay in my book- make Svengali a film worth catching. As I have said before it perhaps does not withstand too much scrutiny; but really who cares? I loved it!

 Svengali is showing at Cineworld on Fri 21st June  at 8.40pm and Sat 22nd June at2.40pm