LOCARNO FILM REVIEW: Hongqui Li’s ‘Winter Vacation’

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By Ray Bennett

LOCARNO, Switzerland – There are many slow and uneventful scenes in Hongqi Li’s labored comedy “Winter Vacation” that are intended to show how slow and uneventful a break from school can be for teenagers in a snowbound urban wasteland with nothing to do.

There are two or three moments worth a chuckle in the film but there cannot be many audiences that will share the view of the Locarno International Film Festival competition jury, which gave it their top prize Golden Leopard.

That honor means the film will likely get airings at other festivals but viewers will discover a production that uses a static camera for a series of scenes in which people gather but say little or nothing.

There is a running gag involving a very proper but grouchy grandfather who imposes silence and stillness on a dutiful but resentful little kid, but its humor dwindles.

That same child has the only funny line in the picture when a visiting little girl asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. Hearing his reply, she regards him scornfully and says, “You are a pitiful child.”

Otherwise, it’s one scene after another of four or five teenagers in winter clothing standing about or sitting on a sofa in the snow saying not very much.

Venue: Locarno International Film Festival. In Competion; Cast: Ba Junjie, Zhang Naqi, Bai Jinfeng, Xie Ying, Wang Hui, Bao Lei

Director, writer, editor: Hongqi Li; Director of photography: Qin Yurul; Music: Zuoxiao Zuzhou, The Top Floor Circus; Production company: Ning Cal, Alex Chung; Not rated; running time, 91 minutes.

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