[box cover]

A Scene at the Sea

Takeshi Kitano's first film, 1989's Violent Cop, surprised many of his Japanese fans by taking his alter-ego Beat Takeshi, a popular comic figure on Japanese television, and turning him to a remorseless, ultra-violent police officer who is pushed beyond his limit. As a follow-up he made Boiling Point in 1990, which also featured Takeshi as a homosexual hit man for the Yakuza, whose brutality knows no bounds. Neither picture made his fans happy, but they earned him a cult following in America. In his third film, the 1992 A Scene at the Sea, he plays no on-camera role, and yet the film is in many ways no less audacious in terms of audience expectations. The story concerns deaf-mute trash collector Shigeru (Kuroudo Maki), who finds a broken surfboard. After fixing it as best he can, he decides to go surfing while his deaf-mute girlfriend Takako (Hiroko Oshima) watches. At first Shigeru is heckled by the local surfers for his lack of ability (and lack of body-suit), but as he keeps practicing he gets better, and eventually he saves up to buy a real board. Slowly, some of those around him become interested in surfing as well, and he gains acceptance with the surfing community, though he begins to skip out on his work. And really, that's the whole story — nothing happens on a grand scale, and as the two leads are mute, much of the film is free of dialogue. It takes a fairly confident filmmaker to work with that much silence and little in the way of plot, but Kitano's risks pay off for the patient viewer. The two lovers are touching central figures, and the serene tone of the film is well-handled, ensuring that the slow pace doesn't turn boring. And one of the most romantic moments in recent cinema can be found during a moment where the two lovers are separated because Shigeru can't bring his surfboard on the bus. Wisely, Kitano avoids emotional crescendos that would be too high-pitched for this story, and even when Shigeru accidentally cannot compete in a surfing competition — because no one told him it was his turn — Kitano never milks the scene for more than its worth. Only the ending betrays any sense of melodrama in the story, which weakens Kitano's overall strengths here, but even it is emotionally satisfying in its own way. Image's DVD release of A Scene at the Sea is a gem well worth discovering, with a good widescreen transfer (1.77:1) and audio in Dolby 2.0. In Japanese with optional English subtitles. Snap-case.

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