BIFF12 - That Summer - Cinema Review

'boasts a great soundtrack and a fine performance from a very young Winstone, but at no point does it really flash off the screen like it wants to'

Ray Winstone leaves the stage, after talking about his life in film, and director Harley Cokeliss gets up on to it. They couldn't be more different. Winstone is large and imposing, dressed in fashionable glasses and a long jacket, unafraid to point out he is not an intellectual. Cokeliss is small and quiet and dressed comfortably, he begins by talking with great intelligence about film stock and the demise of Columbia's London branch. If this was a film it would be a miss-matched buddy comedy, or a high-school nerds-versus-jocks drama.

This, of course, isn't a film but That Summer is. Just. Somehow, when Columbia closed, they binned all of the film prints held in stock. That Summer, which has just 55 votes on IMDb, now exists in only three prints. This screening - from a new digital version, currently halfway through the restoration process - was only possible because Cokeliss found his own copy of the film at his house. He tells a couple of assembled people afterwards that he thinks this event is the first time the film has been shown to any audience, anywhere, for around twenty years.

With all that history behind it, and the sheer odds against it ever seeing the light of day again, it would be great to report That Summer as something of a stunner. Pleasant though it is, that is unfortunately not the case.

There's little significant wrong with it. Cokeliss' ode to the English riviera getaway is perfectly fine, and boasts a great soundtrack and a fine performance from a very young Winstone, but at no point does it really flash off the screen like it wants to. There's a very baggy middle and the fact that it is ultimately a sports drama (Winstone's Steve goes to the coast to compete in a long distance swimming contest, clashing with some troublesome Scottish antagonists) means that its plot is rather from the stockpile.

There's invention from Cokeliss to admire, as well as Winstone's turn, the American imbuing the English motorway with sunstreaks and East Coast rock in a bid to make the M25 feel sexy. It might not entirely work but later scenes in and around the beach benefit from Cokeliss' sun-dappled lens, and the night staging, though dark and awaiting the restorationists, blink with a certain amount of loved-up, very English neon, an element which the somewhat slow plot might have benefited from an injection of. Still, a pleasure to see it, and to share the experience with a director who must have thought his work lost from public view a long time ago.

The 18th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 19th - 29th April at The National Media Museum and several satellite venues in and around Bradford. It includes a European Features competition, the Shine Short Film Award and several major UK premieres and retrospectives.

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