Saturday, November 10, 2012

Follow-Up: That Summer!

It was more than a few years ago that I wrote about Harley Cokeliss' That Summer!, a Columbia UK release and an early starring vehicle for Ray Winstone.  It was a film I was familiar with only because of its great punk / New Wave soundtrack LP, which seemed to be ubiquitous in used record store bins in my college years.  The film itself was really difficult to see, as it had never been available on home video and had not, as far as I could tell, been released to theaters in the U.S.

Since that time, however, the film has appeared in several installments on YouTube, but as that is not my preferred mode of viewing, I refrained from seeing it until it appeared on Sony's new free movie streaming service Crackle.  It's a full-frame transfer, but it's a clean print that's obviously miles better than the old television dubs that have been the source of bootlegs and the Youtube uploads.  Additionally, the film, its star, and director recently appeared at the Bradford International Film Festival in Northern England for the first public viewing of the film in decades.

As for the film itself, now that I've finally seen it I can say that it's a pleasant and mildly entertaining coming-of-age film, its main attributes being some attractive cinematography of Torquay, the aforementioned soundtrack, and a strong central performance from a very young Winstone.  The plot is cardboard thin, as are the rest of the characters, unfortunately.  Fresh out of the borstal system, Winstone's Steve makes for resort town Torquay so that he can train and participate in an annual long distance ocean swimming race there.  There, he befriends a a London chap (Tony London) who has a job renting watersport equipment on the beach and pair of working-class girls (Julie Shipley and Emily Moore) working as chambermaids, and runs afoul of a trio of Scottish lads, one of whom is his chief swimming rival (Jon Morrison).  It's a nice time capsule for '70s youth culture, obviously with a British bent, and may appeal to fans of UK films of the era such as Quadrophenia, Breaking Glass, and Bill Forsyth's first two features.  [EDIT: After writing this, I see that producers Clive Parsons and Davina Belling also produced Scum, Forsyth's Gregory's Girl and Comfort and Joy, and Breaking Glass.]

This was Winstone's follow-up to Scum, and since he rather amusingly plays a fellow who's just been released from a borstal, there is something to the idea of this being an unofficial sequel to Scum, except that That Summer! is such an innocuous and tame piece that there is really nothing else that can tie it to the earlier film (aside from John Judd, who appears here as the swimming coach and was so nasty as Sands in Scum).  It must have been some kind of relief for Winstone to move on to such a relatively easygoing picture--though, to be fair, That Summer! is a sports movie and it required a lot of rigorous swimming from Winstone, who's in about the best physical condition of his career...props to Winstone for repeatedly slipping into that '70s San Diego Padre-style brown and mustard bikini and seemingly having no issues with doing so.

The songs appear mostly in the background in diegetic fashion and there is also a New Wave-style score by Ray Russell, who got his start as a teenager in the John Barry Seven.  These are somewhat odd soundtrack choices in that the narrative contains no punk or New Wave characters nor does it explore or espouse the subculture at all.

Other technical credits are also impressive, including Academy Award-winner David Watkin, a man who won an Oscar for Out of Africa and shot Ken Russell's The Devils, among many other impressive credits.  Editing is by longtime Ken Russell collaborator Michael Bradsell.  Art director Tim Hutchinson also has a lot of Russell films on his resume.

With all the Russell connections here, it's fitting that Mark Kermode moderated the Ray Winstone chat at Bradford.  It sounds like this was quite the event and would love to have been there.  According to the account told by director Harley Cokeliss--who I was most surprised to learn is an American with Chicago and San Diego origins--when Columbia closed its UK office, the film's negative was junked and only 3 prints survive (one of which belongs to the director and which has been partially color-restored).  It's said that the BFI is considering a full restorationSome more details on the Bradford screening and print condition.

Marc Edward Heuck tells me that his sources at Sony in the U.S. have a print, which they still have not actually screened Stateside.  Avid New York-area cinemagoer, Louis Letizia remembers it being at the Thalia in '79 or '80.  It's not a great film, but That Summer! is most certainly worthwhile and it's heartening to see it go from being nigh impossible to see to possibly getting a full BFI restoration.

 Novelization (or, more accurately, novelisation, in this case)

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