‘Otway The Movie’ Odeon, Leicester Square London 07.10.12
Photos by Eric Hands
The grand launch of ‘Otway The Movie, a fan funded film, didn’t seem so much a moment of destiny as another leap into the void by an artist who continues to eschew a safety net. John Otway, is after all rock’s self proclaimed ‘greatest failure’, but he’s also an artist with two hits, two books, a huge fan base and now an autobiographical film on his hands.
Both the red carpet launch and the film turned out to be a resounding triumph of self belief, dedication to his art and yes – wait for it – star quality. It is also probably the same dedication and shared belief of his close knit circle of friends that helped bring Otway’s anarchic plans to fruition.
Subtitled ‘Rock & Roll’s Greatest Failure’, this world premiere proved to be a memorable event, with the immediate vicinity of the country’s largest cinema, the cavernous Leicester Square Empire, being overrun by Otway fans. Their hero took to the Odeon balcony in the company of two ‘Otway bunnies’ to replace the Odeon letters with OTWAY. That moment and the fan’s delighted response was filmed and later cleverly integrated into the end of the film, highlighting the technical possibilities that made the movie possible.
The film is a rough chronological outline of Otway’s 35 year career of high and lows, though some significant events were chopped at the editing stage. Inevitably the funniest moments concern his failures, the biggest of them all being the abortive world tour on a hired jumbo jet renamed Ot Air. This incident also provides the one ambivalent part of the film where he sheepishly admits he probably overstretched himself.
Where the internet initially helped him to fully realise the potential of his fan base, the film is a result of further technological advances. Much of the movie features chronological snippets of his career, which are incorporated with the present, and presented to local six formers in the context of how the media and music business works.
Significantly the story behind his second hit ‘Bunsen Burner, also provides us with an insight into the shady dealings of the retail industry that helped shape the charts. Woolworth’s refusal to stock his second potential hit probably robbed him of a number one spot, but as Richard Cotton quips in the film to great cheers from the packed cinema, it’s no wonder they went bankrupt.
The great thing about the movie is the ‘can do’ spirit underlying Otway’s achievements, some of which are as calculated, as others are unexpected. Much like his previous triumphs such as filling the Albert Hall and asking his fans to choose his second hit, this film premier must have been a huge test of faith, but a full house on a Sunday morning bears testament to his fans loyalty.
Steve Barker, Amy Otway, David Painter and Richard Holgarth are in effect credited as the directors, and perhaps only they could really grasp the lengths to which he would go to turn some of his wackiest ideas into reality.
‘Otway The Movie’ is a genuinely funny film, with moments of warped irony but without any suggestion of self doubt. The core structure is as consistent as the subject himself and the interactive finale is the perfect end to a movie that is as much about the fans as the loveable eccentric they continue to support.
Review by Pete Feenstra
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