A Scene at the Sea Review
Mono no aware
Back in 1991, visionary auteur Takeshi Kitano, arguably the greatest Japanese filmmaker since Akira Kurosawa, took a step back from his frequented comedy and crime genres to do something a little different.Whilst a contender for one of his least accessible features, A Scene at the Sea remains an equal-parts inspirational and melancholic look at a young deaf couple struggling on the fringe of Japanese society, whose lives gain some direction when the boy - a garbage man by day - finds a broken surfboard and decides that he will dedicate all of his time to attempting, however unsuccessfully, to surf.Despite being mocked by the local youths, and ridiculed by the pro surfers who watch his seemingly futile self-training from the shore, the young man persists, almost oblivious to outside influences, and eventually his dedication is curiously rewarded.
On the face of it, Kitano's exploration of the lives of this young deaf couple is a pedestrian near-silent-movie-esque enterprise, with a narrative that involves almost literally nothing happening for the majority of the runtime, all set to the dulcet - and melancholic - tones of composer and future long-term Kitano-collaborator, Joe Hisaishi.
But Kitano - even if relatively new to the Big Screen back then, and yet to make his masterpiece (1993's Sonatine) - was always a confident and accomplished filmmaker, with a distinct vision, and it's not unreasonable to see this, retrospectively, as another intimate look at Japanese class struggle, fringe existence and life - with his protagonist's obliviousness to the trappings of modern Japanese society (most notably, and most bluntly, often through not actually being able to hear the comments and criticisms) enabling him to do what most others can only sit back and dream about.
Despite a great score, this thoughtful ode to life is sometimes too slight for its own good
Unfortunately, ultimately, it is a particularly inaccessible film - even by Kitano's frequently inaccessible standards - and despite it's unusually poetic, sweet and bittersweet, tones, and subtle, well-meaning symbolism, this may leave all but the most ardent Kitano fans cold.
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