A Scene at the Sea
dir. Kitano Takeshi
A deaf guy who lives near the ocean finds a surf board and teaches himself to surf, while his deaf girlfriend sits on the beach and watches him. That's it, that's pretty much all that happens, until the last scene which indulges ridiculously in sudden tragedy.
Art-house darling director Kitano is obsessed with still, silent compositions where nothing
much happens, and with elliptical cuts that leave out the key moments of
the action. He does this in all his films, but this one is by far the
most egregious example. But what bothered me the most was the portrayal
of deaf characters. Kitano is not interested in dialog, as can be seen
by the improvised, inconsequential dialog of the few characters who
talk, and also the way he favors shooting from very far away. You get
the feeling he really wanted to shoot a completely silent film. Ok, that
might have been interesting as an artistic experiment. But using deaf
characters as a shorthand for a world of silence is dishonest. The
characters come across as completely one-dimensional and boring: they
don't communicate at all, even with each other, and never show any
facial expression. The film uses the deaf characters symbolically,
rather than showing their lives realistically.
The story itself is understated to the point of irrelevance. There are
interminable scenes of guys surfing, all shot from the shore in the most
unimaginative way, and lots and lots of scenes of people walking. Other, better Japanese directors know how to create pathos with
these long takes, but here there's literally nothing going on. And the
ending--huh? It's hard to feel anything when all the characters are kept
at such a distance.