After the relative successes of his first two films, both violent yakuza dramas, Takeshi Kitano, ever unpredictable, made A Scene at the Sea, a quiet romantic drama about a deaf garbage man who becomes obsessed with surfing after finding a broken board - emblazoned with the slogan "sink or swim" - at work. He, Shigeru, fixes it, and he and his (also deaf) girlfriend, Takako, head to the beach, where his enthusiastic amateurism is ridiculed by the other surfers and a couple of old classmates.
Kitano's calm, languid visual style is punctuated by brief moments of expression, usually contained within probing close-ups. In A Scene at the Sea, Kitano cuts away from a long, static take of a beach filled with surfers to observe Takako quietly folding her boyfriend's clothes, while later, the two share smiles, his coy, hers beaming, as they walk towards the beach holding either end of a surfboard. These small, loving details make the derision he suffers seem so meaningless, but what is it that makes him so happy: the love of his girlfriend, or his love for surfing? As the film ends, Kitano gives us a montage of Takako's memories as she looks back over the relationship. There's a surfer in every one.