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A SCENE AT THE SEA (Ano natsu, ichiban shizukana umi) (director/writer/editor: Takeshi Kitano; cinematographer: Katsumi Yanagishima; cast: Kuroko Maki (Shigeru), Hiroko Oshima (Takako); Runtime:101; Kimstim Pictures; 1992-Japan)
“The film forces one to view it the way a deaf person sees the world.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An unusual film from the always interesting director Takeshi Kitano (Fireworks/Violent Cop/Sonatine), taking an entirely different direction from the violent gangster films he is renown for. This is a very sensitive love story about a young couple who are both deaf. The dialogue is almost completely muted, as there are long stretches of golden silences and no translators for the deaf are used or needed to make things understood. The couple communicates by their expressions, rarely using sign language. It is a most compelling and unique film, one that is emotionally satisfying, on a level of a Bresson film for its sparseness and the emotional connections it makes with the viewers.

Shigeru (Kuroko Maki) works as a garbageman. On one of his rounds he finds a broken surfboard and takes it home to repair. He knows nothing about surfing, but he goes with his moonfaced girlfriend Takako (Hiroko Oshima) surfing. They go to a spot where a regular crowd of surfers hang-out and while Shigeru is learning the others laugh at his inexperience and lack of proper equipment, he doesn’t even possess a wetsuit. When Shigeru’s surfboard breaks, he goes to a sports store and bargains to get a good board. Not having enough money, Shigeru waits until payday and goes back to the same store to buy the board. Shigeru could have gotten a cheaper board somewhere else, but it turns out that he bought it at the right store. The store-owner is a champion surfer and takes an interest in him, going down to watch him surf and even giving him pointers. Slowly the boy begins to improve and add equipment, he also grows with confidence.

There are some splendid scenes where we view Shigeru at a surfing contest, the Chikura Surf Classics. None of his local group bother to tell him that they announced his name when he is called and he misses the contest, while his group is chided for this by the store-owner.

We view Shigeru walk in a noble manner to the surfing area with his girlfriend and follow with curiosity how Takako temporarily withdraws from him, as her jealousy arises when she sees him sitting with another girl.

The film forces one to view it the way a deaf person sees the world. There is little need for dialogue to convey its story. It is clearly shown how human nature can be understood by deaf people, that one does not need language to express how people cling to groups in order to glorify their own exclusiveness. The film always has a light strain of humor running through it, yet what remains memorable is how beautiful the summer scenery is and how effectively simple the story is. It is molded together in a very discriminating way while, at the same time, presenting a very touching love story. This is a cinema fans true delight, a purely visual film without the need for high-tech artifices.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”