Li Hongqi’s award-winning black comedy Winter Vacation is labeled “Crucial Viewing” by the Chicago Cine-file blog. Winter Vacation screens Monday at University of Chicago’s Doc Films at 7pm. Screening details here.
Patrick Friel writes in Cine-file:
Set in a small industrial town and primarily concerned with a group of disaffected teen boys and their families, WINTER VACATION draws inevitable comparisons to the work of Jia Zhang-ke (PLATFORM, THE WORLD, STILL LIFE, 24 CITY) in its insistent and idiosyncratic look at modern China. But Jia’s films are downright baroque compared to the minimalist style of Li. The film is slow and features little action – more often than not the characters are sitting quite still or standing stationary – and Li’s compositions and long shots favor empty space and the generic, sterile surroundings (both inside and out), but once one is used to the pacing and visual bareness, one begins to see a rich vein of emotion laying just below the surface of the characters’ lives. Li’s formal elements provide considerable insight into the desperation and stasis they feel (and are actually quite stunning). While his film is part of a larger wave of recent Chinese cinema that is offering a serious critique of contemporary society there, it is also doing so through a delightfully acerbic use of humor. It is a dryly-comic film; the humor creeps up unexpectedly, maintaining a disciplined restraint to match the minimalism of every other aspect of the film. But, a few times, it bursts forth and bites you in the ass, providing (for me at least) several uncontrollable genuine belly laughs. Who says severe minimalism can’t be fun?