Director: Takeshi Kitano
The expectations set by Takeshi's previous two films were purposefully undone when he moved past American action films and completely wrote out of the script his own distinctive persona. The result of his new-found independence is both surprising and consistent, and an unmistakable vindication of his versatility and command as a director.
The story here concerns the teenager Shigeru, who one day on his rounds as a garbage collector finds a ruined surfboard. With single-minded devotion he repairs it and starts to use it, all the while suffering the taunts and humiliation of his more adept peers. Like the characters of the earlier films, the apparent misfits get a chance to prove themselves, though the methods and consequences of this are less than expected.
In a manner that is ingenuous and powerfully affecting, the audience comes to realize that Shigeru and his girlfriend companion Takako are afflicted by a disability. The film refuses to patronize them, nor does it use them for easily arrived-at sentiment. With its relaxed pace, elliptical and hesitating denouement, the film casts a haunting and mystifying spell that lingers long after the strangely enigmatic resolution. • Paul Kalina