Friday, 19 August 2016

FILM4 SUMMER SCREEN AT SOMERSET HOUSE


Taking place over a couple of weeks each August, Film4 returned to Somerset House's grand courtyard for its annual series of Summer Screen films. With premieres of Pedro Almodovar's Julieta and Viggo Mortensen's Captain Fantastic alongside classics like Robocop and highly regarded future classics like Ex Machina, this offered something for all cinematic tastes. Personally, I opted for the Saturday night double bill of Galaxy Quest and The Final Girls, two films that encapsulate the self-referential film geekiness that I love.



We arrived at 7pm to find a DJ in full swing playing retro pop classics and a great atmosphere all around (the group next to us brought Uno and I saw Trevor or Simon, but I'm not sure which one) as people gradually turned up and slotted themselves into every nook and cranny possible on the seating area, like some sort of picnic blanket Tetris. The courtyard really is something to behold, and there was a bar area and appropriately themed print gallery to explore before the sun went down and the first screening started.


This was my first experience of Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, largely because I had no idea such a place existed right in the centre of London. Operating as some sort of stately home/art gallery for most of the year, it's also host to some incredible looking audio visual extravaganzas, such as the upcoming Bjork Digital virtual reality exhibition, and uses its unique space as an ice rink during winter. Frankly, it's a little bit amazing, despite the entrance to the toilets looking like the setting for a sequel to Hostel (they were surprisingly clean inside).


In attendance were The Final Girls (not named specifically after the film that was being screened that night, but more so the theory behind it), a film group aiming to highlight feminist texts within modern and cult cinema. They handed out cool little booklets that helpfully broke down the rules of surviving a horror movie, and had screened a collection of new short films before the double bill that explored the tropes of horror movie conventions.


Before the first screening, organiser David Cox gave a lovely tribute to Alan Rickman, who had long been a supporter of the Somerset House screenings and had previously appeared before the screenings of Die Hard and Sense and Sensibility. It was revealed by David Cox that Rickman had agreed to return to introduce Galaxy Quest should they screen it, and after his unfortunate passing earlier this year, it was decided that the film should be screened in his honour. And a fitting tribute to his immense talent it was.


I hadn't seen Galaxy Quest for a number of years but remembered it fondly (particularly when so many people chose to discuss and recommend it after Rickman's death), and it was a joy to see projected in 35mm onto Somerset House's giant screen. The film holds up incredibly well with top performances from Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Tim Allen, and can rightly be considered as a forebearer to the meta-textual narratives that were to come, including The Final Girls.


It seemed that I was in the minority, but when this season of films was announced, it was the screening of The Final Girls that got me the most excited. A delightfully clever journey through horror movie tropes, I've been a huge fan of it since it arrived on demand late last year, and the chance to finally see it on the big screen was not one to miss. I say that I must be in the minority, as once the crowd had arrived en masse it became clear that people might make the stupid mistake of leaving before The Final Girls even hit the screen. Perhaps I was being naive, but it never crossed my mind that people would buy tickets to see a double bill and then skip out halfway through. Increasing the awkwardness was that director Todd Strauss-Schulson was on hand to introduce his film, and although he urged the audience to not leave and give his film a chance, large swathes did anyway.


I think it's great that so many people came out to celebrate the work of Alan Rickman on the big screen, but whether it was to catch the last tube or just due to sheer ignorance, those who left after Galaxy Quest missed out on a great film that played really well on the big screen. The audience laughed and jumped at all the right beats, and it was a rewarding experience for those that decided to take a chance on this little, under-appreciated film that I genuinely believe in fifteen years time will be held in the same regard as Galaxy Quest is now. Seriously, The Final Girls may not be the most widely known film, but it is the perfect choice for a double bill with Galaxy Quest, and with its subversion and celebration of what makes cheesy horror films so fun to watch, it is exactly the kind of film that is a joy to discover and brag to your friends about seeing it before them. I can understand how some of the audience would have a necessity to get home due to babysitters, travel arrangements, etc, but the entire Film4 Somerset House event has been carefully and lovingly curated. They wouldn't be showing this film unless it meant something.

Watching a film outdoors was a new experience for me, and seeing airplanes fly overhead is a distraction that makes for a nice change to seeing people play on their phones. Thankfully it didn't rain as I hadn't really planned for bad weather, but I was enjoying the screenings so much I don't think a torrential downpour could have shifted me from my spot (I'm basically cursing myself for next year now). Hopefully the introduction of the night tube will solve a lot of problems with early leavers (sadly, launching the weekend after this double bill), and I'm looking forward to finding out what premieres, re-appraisals and crazy double bills Film4 have to offer next year.


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