Am I watching the apocalypse? Winter Vacation is a mix of weird humor, boredom, and social philosophy, the characters that inhabit this world seem to be dead inside, and they talk like they are, yet, their insights of the world are often too advance for kids their age. This film is a very strange combination of styles, to say the least.
Set within spartan domestic and public mileux teenageers and adults engage in aphasic dialogues. The expressionless suspension of 'performance' underscored by emotional 'alienation-effects' gives prepondrance to pauses and empty looks only to highlight the cacophony of the overarching institutional framework. Better in the exterior shots than in the close ups or the interior ones, this is wry and gritty.
Truly subtle, reserved filmmaking - and that manifests in the mood, setting, and especially the humour, which is dry, bordering on absurd and almost surreal at times. The film revolves around the social and political reality of modern China and gives us a brief glimpse of life in a small, remote Chinese town. Lovely static shots with careful framing. Intriguing use of music, the final scene is daring (nice song too).
This was as bleak as advertised, but with less humor than I expected. A post-industrial landscape mixed with a rural feeling, a city devoid of people, and winter's cold presented in the form of lots of long, static shots. At times I was right there with the characters, at other times I was hoping the film would speed up and get on with it. But that's the point. There is no speeding up and you're stuck there, too.
Yes, "deadpan" is the go-to descriptor. WINTER VACATION might make you think of Kaurismäki or STRANGER THAN PARADISE Jarmusch, but I would suggest the Western equivalent would be a Zellner brothers movie on Thorazine. The performers (almost Bressonian models) and filmmaking itself are lugubrious in the extreme. It's hilarious but above all totally fascinating. Humans fiercely alienated by the spaces they occupy.
As deadpan as Kaurismaki's films, it depicts anomie gnawing at the heart of a wintry ghost town in mainland China. Although po-faced, the dialogue drips with absurd and risible humor. One child wishes to be "an orphan" when he grows up. Another complains of having "insomnia." The grown-ups set the tone however with all sorts of infantilisms. The cold winter mirrors the mood of the neglected margins.
(1.5 stars) There's a different between dry humor and Sahara Desert Dry No Humor. This film is ridiculously slow and so dead pan that it is just... well... dead. I found the lack of story and lack of ANYTHING going on completely without merit, focus or interest. Moving on...