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copyright ©1999-2000

flick pick | Shall We Dance? (Shall We Dansu?) 1996
Directed by: Masayuki Suo
Starring: Koji Yakusho, Tamiyo Kusakari, Naoto Takenaka, Eriko Watanabe
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Look for it at the video store under:
foreign [Japanese]
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
lovey, whimsical

Plot synopsis Shohei Sugiyama has a good job, a nice house in the suburbs, and a loving wife and daughter. Nonetheless, he feels empty, and utterly dispassionate about life. One evening, on the train ride commute back home, he looks out his window and catches sight of a beautiful, solemn-faced young woman staring out from a ballroom dance studio. On a whim he begins taking lessons at the studio, this despite the fact that ballroom dancing is a taboo activity in Japanese culture, and the pretty dance teacher, Mai, shows no sign of returning his interest. To his surprise, however, he soon grows to enjoy dancing, and the members of the dance studio, all united by their secret love for that scandalous pastime, become a sort of surrogate family for him. Meanwhile, his wife grows increasingly worried about the change in her husband’s demeanor, and hires a private investigator to find out whether her husband is, as she suspects, involved in an affair.

Review Shall We Dance? is a simple, graceful romance in which not a single kiss is ever exchanged. Clearly, this is not an American film. In this movie, romance exists not in longing glances and steamy sexual tension, but in the chance encounter of two very sad, very lonely individuals who, through their relationship, begin to discover what it means to love living. An endearing cast of offbeat secondary characters – including a socially inept office worker who fancies himself the king of Latin dance, an overweight man prescribed dance lessons by his doctor, and an acid-tongued older she-dragon hell-bent on finding a good dance partner – along with the occasional foray into the absurd, keep the tone light and very funny.



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