29 March 2004 | gray4
A Japanese masterpiece
Takeshi Kitano has made his reputation through a string of splendid Yakuza films, whose stylised violence is tempered with humour. All the more of a surprise, then, to come across this early Kitano in a totally different style. The storyline is minimal. A young deaf-mute garbage collector finds a broken surfboard, repairs it and becomes obsessed with surfing. His devoted girlfriend follows him - literally - everywhere, six paces behind him, dutifully folding up his discarded clothes while he is surfing.
Surely you can't make a film with so little action and no dialogue from the main characters! Kitano does, triumphantly. This is a heart-warming film, without being cloying. The relationship between the two central characters is drawn beautifully, using only their eyes and occasional smiles. They hardly ever even touch. But by the end of the film you feel that you know them and your heart goes out to them, in a film with touches of the great Japanese master Ozu. The music complements the film's moods superbly, and augments the atmospheric stillness that pervades this Japanese masterpiece. A must-see movie.