Shall we Dance?
Director: Masayuki Suo
This is a charming and funny film about the need for and healing powers of self-expression whilst exploiting the culture clash between East and West.
Shohei Suguyama is a middle-aged accountant, outwardly happy with a loving wife and daughter. Yet there’s something missing from his life and he is depressed. One night on his way home, he sees a beautiful woman, Mai, gazing sadly from a window advertising ballroom dancing lessons. He is mesmerised by her.
Ballroom dancing in Japan is regarded generally as rather discreditable: culturally alien and something to be rather ashamed of doing. The physical intimacy in public, perhaps with a complete stranger, is regarded as unacceptable. However Shohei, in order to meet Mai and discover her secret, decides to join a class. There he meets an assortment of characters who provide much of the comedy. He is introduced to the world of amateur competitions. Meanwhile he has to keep his shameful secret from his family and colleagues who begin to suspect that he is having an affair.
There is a nice touch at the beginning – a man’s shoe steps into a black pool of water – a visual pun on Blackpool, the home of ballroom dancing, referenced in the film.
Hollywood remade the film in 2004 with Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon with Masayuki credited as one one of the screenplay writers.
Masayuki Suo is a successful Japanese filmmaker who first appeared in the cast of Kurosawa’s directorial debut, Kanda River, Pervert War. In his early career as a director he was involved in the ‘pink’ (erotic) film industry. His first film as a director, the highly regarded Abnormal Family (1984) is a witty satire of, and tribute to, Ozu’s Tokyo Story (shown at CFS in 2005).
Cast: Kôji Yakusho, Tamiyo Kusakari and Naoto Takenaka
Awards: Fifty-two awards and three nominations
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