Deadpan delivery and minimalist lensing are the hallmarks of Li Hongqi’s numbing third feature, “Winter Vacation.” Set in a nondescript town in northern China, the story, such as it is, revolves around a bunch of teens and family members loafing about on their end-of-year break, lensed with a fixed camera largely placed at some remove from the actors. Fans of expressionless recitation will enjoy a few chuckles, though only auds primed for this kind of attenuated comedy will remain seated. A Hubert Bals Fund special and a participant in Locarno’s Open Doors project, “Winter Vacation” received the fest’s Golden Leopard.
Boys hang out in bare spaces or on featureless streets, occasionally bickering but largely just sharing their boredom. Older adults are little more than catatonic, while the youngest tots spout lines beyond their years. Time passes slowly for the characters and the viewer, interrupted by the sound of offscreen fireworks and occasional song-like, whiny sighs accompanying a synthesizer score. As with his previous pics, Li’s camera placement often reveals an architectural eye, but the tone is duller than the leaden sky, leading to unfavorable comparisons with early Jim Jarmusch.