by Paul Attard Film

The Summer Is Gone | Zhang Dalei

March 20, 2017

If there’s one noticeable (and troubling) trend in this year’s ND/NF , it’s a pointless rigor exerted in an effort to appear more “serious.” Case in point, Zhang Dalei’s The Summer Is Gone, a coming-of-age story about Xiaolei (Kong Weiyi), a young boy in West China, during his summer before middle school. Shooting in black and white rather pointlessly (or to appeal to the #OnePerfectShot crowd), Zhang utilizes mostly longtakes, trying to capture the mundane qualities of simple everyday life, with the Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien as his clear point of influence.

The problem is that Zhang has only picked up superficial elements from Hou’s cinema: the narrative here lacks the contemplative beauty it’s striving for, leaving Zhang’s film feeling less natural in its pacing. What Zhang does do is allow for random digressions that guarantee tugs on the heartstrings, and adding orchestral music to hammer down the emotional one. In fact, rarely does a moment go by that doesn’t feel overworked, from the aforementioned cinematographic technique to the deliberately slack progression. An argument could definitely be made that this is Zhang’s point, that life as he sees it is boring, but that sounds more like an excuse than a defense, pardoning and allowing for his generally uninspired filmmaking. 

Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2017 | Dispatch 1.