But all this aside, does it work?
There is a lot to enjoy in Svengali. The performances are a pleasure to watch (the standout being Roger Evans as Horsey, the ostensibly smooth A&R man Dixie knew in his youth) and the rest of the cast being packed with familiar faces keep the side up. The chemistry between Dixie and Shell, the kind of thing can sink a film if done wrong, is done with warmth and humour.
The indie muso soundtrack quite simply lifts the film when it needs to instead of being laid over the top to sell records, which is so often the case with British cinema. No doubt it’ll be a soundtrack that’ll become a perennial part of indie record collections over the country much like Trainspotting or Lock Stock did in the 90s. There are more laugh out loud moments than most British low budget fare and frankly it’s hugely refreshing not to see a film about a Cockney tough guy or zombie attack that 90 percent of the releases this country pumps out to nobody in particular.
However, Svengali has its faults. The depiction of the music industry is downright patronising in the speed that Dixie negotiates his way to the top, and very few clichés are left unturned. The origins as a web series lead to a very episodic narrative, including some sub-plots that seem crowbarred in to pad out the running time. However, satire is not as high on the agenda for the filmmakers as much as making feel-good, rock’n’roll comedy, and it succeeds overall. Hopefully others will follow its lead.
Svengali is available to watch from these locations:
iTunes (to download)