Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shall We Dance? (1996)

Ok. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the 2004 American version (with Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon), but it was just a good movie. Shall We Dance?, the Japanese version from 1996 (available upon request at Bethlehem library), is a great film. The story is about a man who is bored with his life. As he rides the train home from work every night he sees a woman looking out the window of a dance studio. Her face looks as sad as he feels. So in a spur-of-the-moment decision he decides to hop off the train and do whatever it takes to meet this woman. What it takes is that he has to take dancing lessons. But more than that, he has to care more about dancing than he does about this mysterious woman. Meanwhile, back at home, his wife is beginning to worry that her husband has a mistress so she hires a private detective. The detectives and some of the other dancers provide most of the humor in the film, of which there is plenty. The man and his mysterious dance partner provide the drama, the interest, the humanity. The story is wonderful; all of the characters are appealing and sympathetic; and it’s set in Japan where although its culture is different than ours, maybe their lives are more similar to ours than we might have thought. I think that’s why it translated so well and easily to an American audience leading to an American version. The dancing is fantastic as are the costumes. This is a beautiful film and I truly hope you’ll check it out if you haven’t seen it already.

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