Zhang Dalei’s luscious, black-and-white, drama recalls a country boy’s last summer vacation before entering high school, oblivious to political change and the new market economy overturning his parents’ world.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
First-time director Zhang Dalei laces his piquant recreation of the summer he was twelve with telling details of social upheaval that he was too young to comprehend at the time: China is welcoming in economic reforms, state companies are being privatised and his parents, their friends and neighbours must learn to fend for themselves in a world of free enterprise.
“A memory movie about once upon a time in Inner Mongolia, The Summer Is Gone takes place sometime after Tiananmen Square and before the advent of smartphones. It pivots on a 12-year-old boy, Xiaolei, who drifts through the languid summer days and nights, but its emotional focus are the adults who whisper and fret about larger changes.
In one scene, Xiaolei visits his filmmaker father at his work and stares rapt at a film strip as a voice on a loudspeaker announces: ‘Lifelong jobs will no longer exist. What you’ll earn depends on your ability.’ The future is near. The director dedicated the movie ‘to the generation that birthed ours,’ and while he wraps it in nostalgia, most overtly through the black-and-white cinematography and lush music, there’s real sting here.” — Manohla Dargis, NY Times