Every summer an excited audience sits with crossed fingers hoping for good weather. Wimbledon used to be the event drawing such a crowd, but with Centre Court rocking a roof these days, it’s less important. Instead, the Film4 Summer Screen, now moving into its second decade, is the prime venue for sun worshippers.
Sat out in the courtyard of the imposing Somerset House, wet weather is not exactly welcome, though (excuse the pun) it can’t fully dampen the spirits of the ardent films fans that flock in. The rapt faces watching Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty in the pouring rain last year prove this point.
With tickets on sale now for the event that runs from 6-19 August, the full programme (check it out here) is as strong as ever. You should really try and see everything. If that isn’t quite feasible, here are the highlights:
There are four UK premieres to sink your teeth into this year.
Opening proceedings comes Gemma Bovery (6th August) adapted from Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel of the same name. With strong Flaubertian undercurrents, it finds Gemma Arterton and Jason Flemyng’s married couple heading dangerously down the ruinous path Madame Bovary walked as a Parisian hipster attempts to steer them to safer waters. At the other end of the cinematic tracks, there’s Guy Ritchie’s take on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (7th August). Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer resurrect Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the onetime enemies/soon to be friends who must unite to save the world in explosive fashion.
If that’s all a little too British for you, Brazilian drama The Second Mother (12th August) offers a literate and thoughtful alternative. When a mother moves to the big city to make a living, she’s forced to leave her daughter behind. Years later, the chance arrives to act on the guilt that’s accrued over 13 years.
As enticing as they are, my premiere highlight is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (19th August). Blending the perils of school years with love and leukaemia, it’s a comedy-drama packing a punch. Hot off a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival in January, it walked away with the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. It’s a closing film you shouldn’t miss.
As exciting as that may sound, the Summer Screen isn’t really about new releases. It’s the chance to catch old favourites, stone cold classics, and cult oddities the way they’re meant to be enjoyed. With 12 to pick from this year, here’s the top three to check out:
- Aguirre, Wrath of God (13th August): This is madness that has to be experienced on the biggest screen you can find with a crowd of eager enthusiasts. Werner Herzog’s ill-fated tale of Spanish conquistadors in Peru is a thing of deranged beauty. The battle to make the film is as epic as anything captured on-screen, the two feeding each other until this magnificent beast emerges.
- Princess Mononoke (9th August): There is no correct answer to the question what is the best Studio Ghibli film. Most of the output from the venerable Japanese studio will have at least a core of supporters. For me it’s this effort from Hayao Miyazaki that touches on many of his favourite themes including a strong female lead and the threat of environmental damage. Here, humans and gods end up in conflict in medieval Japan. A glorious film in pretty much every way.
- The Silence of the Lambs (10th August): Hannibal Lecter has appeared on screen numerous times and in different guises; none have topped this. Anthony Hopkins is perfect as the chilling murderer helping Jodie Foster track down a serial killer from the confines of his maximum security cell. Much imitated, repeatedly referenced, it’s definitely its own thing and one of the best films of recent decades.
What’s not to like about this year’s line-up? Don’t just take my word for it though. Summer is here and the Summer Screen isn’t far behind. Make sure you grab a slice.