A Summer at Grandpa's | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

A Summer at Grandpa's 

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Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien (A Time to Live and a Time to Die) has been hailed as a major new talent of the 80s, and this lyrical childhood remembrance shows you why. A young boy and his sister spend a summer 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 to uneasy grips with the enigmatic and sometimes threatening realities of adult life. The fine, unsentimental attention to childhood incident, as well as the vignettish formal structure, recalls the work of Japan's Hiroshi Shimizu, a child-genre specialist of the 30s and 40s whose Four Seasons of Children this film closely resembles, though Hou's social concerns run deeper, and his spare, contemplative styling--the precise formal center around which a world accumulates--sets him squarely among the modernists. There's a slight sense of drift toward the end, as if Hou's personal, long-take certainty had momentarily deserted him, but otherwise it's a remarkably assured effort. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, June 5, 6:00, 443-3737)

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