Each year, London’s Somerset House transforms its majestic 18th century courtyard into the city’s most esteemed outdoor cinema. An undisputed highlight of the summer for any cinephile, Film4’s annual residency within the regal splendour of these neoclassical surroundings has always promised an eclectic treasure trove of bona fide classics and exciting UK premieres. This year’s event boasted the first London outing of Richard Curtis’ schmaltzy time travelling rom-com About Time, as well as UK premieres for The Way Way Back and David Gordon Green’s offbeat Berlinale comedy Prince Avalanche. The opportunity to lie under the stars on a warm summer’s evening was certainly not one to be squandered.
This year’s audiences were also treated to a diverse mix of established crowd-pleasers including Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, Ken Loach’s Kes and a tantalisingly droll, Deep South double-bill of Terrence Malick’s Badlands and the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona. CineVue were lucky enough to experience the cinematic magic of Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes, a sumptuous tale of a young ballet dancer torn between her career and the man she loves (courtesy of a Park Circus digital restoration). The wondrous palette of Jack Cardiff’s rhapsodic cinematography gently cast a spell over the audience, with this exploration into the conflicting desires of life and art perfectly suited to Somerset House’s opulent environs.
Pure poetry in motion, The Red Shoes remains an indulgent example of the seductive power of the visual arts which, through its lyrical prose and sensual aesthetics, culminates in a vibrant tale of romantic devotion and piety. As flustered patrons shuffle their way past you to rush to the toilet and restless couples rise to tuck into their expensive hampers – predictably blocking your view at the most inopportune moments – Summer Screen leaves you heading the advice of Boris Lermontov. When told “You can’t alter human nature” Lermontov sharply replied “No? I think you can do even better than that. You can ignore it!” – something the overwhelming beauty and invigorating grace of Powell and Pressburger’s masterpiece makes all the more easier to do.
The Red Shoes is just one of the films being shown at the Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House with American Express. For more information on the enriched service American Express offers Cardmembers, visit amex.co.uk/potential.