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With: Wang Chi-Kwang, Sun Cheeng-Lee, Koo Chuen, Mei Fong, Lin Hsiao-ling
Written by: Chu T'ien-wen, Hou Hsiao-hsien
Directed by: Hou Hsiao-hsien
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Mandarin, with English subtitles
Running Time: 93
Date: 01/01/1984

A Summer at Grandpa's (1984)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Lazy, Hazy Days

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In Hou Hsiao-hsien's early film, an eleven year-old Taipei boy, Tung-Tung (Wang Chi-Kwang) and his 4-year old sister Ting-Ting (Sun Cheeng-Lee) are sent to the country to spend the summer with their grandparents after their mother falls ill. The children's summer is delightfully carefree, but the adult world slowly encroaches on their play. Their uncle impregnates a girl but falls in love with a different girl, and two of his pals are wanted for robbing and beating a pair of motorists. A developmentally disabled neighbor causes more controversy, but also rescues Ting-Ting from an oncoming train (she's stuck there due to a thoughtless prank played on her by her brother and his friends). And Tung-Tung worries over his mother, hoping for news of her recovery. These obvious elements of melodrama never reach any kind of hysterical pitch, however. Hou keeps everything wrapped up in a tone of warmth and childlike optimism. His style hadn't yet reached his modern use of lengthy, austere shots, and A Summer at Grandpa's plays more like a conventional film, but his mastery is still apparent. Some sources claim that filmmaker Edward Yang appears in the film, but I haven't confirmed this. (Note: To date, the film has only been released in an imported, four-disc box set of early Hou films, which has since gone out of print. Hopefully someone will pick up the ball soon.)

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