REDCAT trip to screening of Li Hongqi’s WINTER VACATION

Li Hongqi's Winter Vacation

SCREENING: Li Hongqi’s Winter Vacation, 2010, 91 mins
Winner: Golden Leopard, 63rd Locarno Film Festival

Thursday 7 April 2011
Bus Leaving from Pomona College Museum of Art
(corners of College & Bonita)
for CALART’s REDCAT Theatre at 6:30 pm
“… Filming a half dozen (fictional) school-age kids, two toddlers, and a smattering of adults during the last days of a winter vacation in a collapsing rural town, Li not only positions each figure in stylized poses (mostly mirroring the way kids stand—slouched, hands in pockets), but distills conversation into an endless series of pauses and dry recitations. Among other things, in Li’s hands, duration becomes a comedic tool, the director milking the simple length of time it takes characters to do nothing for aching laughter. But also, as in a late shot where a group of kids get up one by one from a makeshift outdoor lounge, leaving the beat-up furniture to sit vacated in the snow, time’s passing renders life’s banality piercingly sad.

Basically, in Li’s world, existence is a series of absurdist situations, a state of being reinforced by the endless repetition of events. One boy gets continually mugged by a bully, the familiarity of the act having been codified into a sort of comic ritual between the two. A much younger kid annoys his grandfather with his perpetual questioning only to be warned off with the same refrain concerning an impending “kick in the butt.” Another young man tries to convince his girlfriend not to dump him (shot amid decaying architecture, the scene recalls a similar exchange in Jia’s Platform). Later we learn that the couple’s life is defined by a cycle of breakups and restarts and the boy’s friends expect the pair to marry … [In] the decaying northern provinces of China (whose tenements and trash-strewn courtyards DP Qin Yurui captures in beautifully lit digital decrepitude), adopting a comic absurdist viewpoint seems at least as productive as taking a tragic one. When, mid-film, one kid turns to his friends and asks them what are they going to do today, it’s at once a practical question, an existential inquiry, and a rhetorical declaration of cosmic futility.”

Andrew Schenker, Slant Magazine, 25 March 2011

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