A Summer at Grandpa's (Chinese: 冬冬的假期; pinyin: Dong–dong de jia qi) is a 1984 film directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien.
This film is inspired by screenwriter Chu Tien-wen's childhood memories, and the first part of Hou's coming-of-age trilogy, followed by The Time to Live and the Time to Die (1985) and Dust in the Wind (1986).
A young boy, Dong-Dong and his sister spend a summer vacation at their grandparents' house in the country while their mother recuperates from an illness; they while away the hours climbing trees, swimming in a stream, searching for missing cattle, and coming uneasily to grips with the enigmatic and sometimes threatening realities of adult life.
A boy and his little sister are taken by their young uncle to spend their summer holiday at the country house of their grandparents. They leave behind their father and a seriously ill mother who is hospitalised and awaiting an operation. This comparatively early work by the great Taiwanese director Hou Xiaoxian has an idyllic look that is utterly deceptive. Hou is too complex an artist to merely capitalise on the charms of children and landscape. Indeed, although bathed almost throughout in bright sunshine, the film has a hard edge with never a hint of sentimentality. Hou always makes his audience work hard at making connections leading to understanding. Here he goes one step further by placing his young protagonists in an insecure world that strains their limited resources of comprehension and understanding. The small girl understands little so spends her time clinging to a single toy, more often than not a pink model of an electric fan. Between them the children have to cope with barely understood encounters such as a mentally retarded girl who has been seduced by a lecherous birdcatcher and two youths who have mugged and robbed a truck driver. Even the children themselves are no angels. The girl, irked by being left out of the group of boys' swimming games, reacts by throwing their clothes in the river, while earlier, the boys tease a tortoise by driving a remotely controlled toy car at it. Even the eponymous Grandpa is not the nice old buffer that the title might convey. He is a country doctor and something of a tetchy martinet. Although not overtly unkind, he is obviously put out by anything that upsets his routine even to the extent of angrily attacking his son's moped with a bar of wood when he learns he has got his girlfriend pregnant. Make no mistake, the charm of childhood as depicted in a film like "The Railway Children" or even the wonderment of seeing things through innocent eyes - the marvellous "Pather Panchali" - are not part of this equation. Even what seems at first sight to be an idyllic river valley is scarred by an ugly road flyover. In his completely unsentimental depiction of childhood Hou has given us a work of piercing observation and integrity.
A Summer at Grandpa's
Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Written by Chu Tien-wen
Music by Edward Yang
Cinematography Chen Kunhou
Release date(s) 1984
Running time 94 minutes
Language Mandarin/Hakka Chinese
The film won the Jury Prize at Locarno in 1985 and the Golden Montgolfiere at the 1985 Nantes Three Continents Festival.
Yen Zheng Guo
C. Chen Li
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