Eye For Film >> Movies >> Shall We Dance? (1996) Film Review
Shall We Dance?
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Feeling listless, depressed and unmotivated? After years slaving in an office, sorting out other people's accounts, earning enough money to buy a small place in the 'burbs for wife and teenage daughter, are you bored of the whole same thing? Has social life hit the pause button and sex lost its flavour? Get a hobby!
Every evening on the train, 42-year-old Shohei Sugiyama (Koji Yakusho), looks up at the windows of the dancing school, when they stop at one of the stations, and, more often than not, sees the figure of a lone, graceful girl staring out over the softening city. Somewhere, in the recesses of his obedient mind, a rebellious thought breaks cover. Her sadness draws him, her beauty stirs him.
Sugiyama can't dance. He's embarrassed even thinking about body movements. He enrolls in the bottom class. Mai (Tamiyo Kusakari), the girl at the window, is the school's top teacher. Sagiyama has little chance of one-to-one tuition until he loosens up and learns the steps. Together with the other bumblers (comic relief), he begins to understand the discipline and challenge of the dancer's repertoire.
Masayuki Suo juggles humour with romance, although, being Japanese and ballroom, they are understated. The exception is Tomio Aoki (Naoto Takenaka), a nervous clerk in Sugiyama's office, who metamorphoses at the dance school into a bewigged dynamo of Latin American temperament. The film is designed for the Western market, with subtle, if recognisable, stereotyping - the ice queen melteth, the stiff accountant triumphs, the fat lump learns rhythm, the tough detective has heart - and a white-tie-and-tails-ish title. Although exceptionally well played (this is ballerina Kusakari's first screen role) and beautifully photographed, sentimentality creeps in and steals the crown from Suo's hand.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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