Shall We Dance?

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Not to be confused with the American remake of a few years back, starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. This is the 1996 original Japanese version, starring almost certainly nobody you've ever heard of, and it's really quite good, and very funny.

Mr. Sugiyama has had his nose to the grindstone for years now, pursuing the Great Japanese Dream: a beautiful loving wife, a smart daughter, and a cozy little house out in the burbs, washing the teeny car in the driveway on weekends. (Yes, the Great Japanese Dream is pretty close to the Great American Dream, put that in your cultural relativist pipe and smoke it.)

But something's missing, and he sees it night after night on the train home from work: a lovely young lady staring forlornly out the window of a dance instruction studio. And so, one night he gets off the train, and near-immediately gets enmeshed in a new world: specifically, the world of ballroom dancing. Mr. Sugiyama signs up for lessons; the lovely Mai remains elusive and mysterious.

A great supporting cast helps this movie quite a bit. Mr. Sugiyama's fellow students are a diverse bunch, so are their instructors; even the characters seemingly introduced solely as comic relief become three-dimensional and sympathetic.

This movie won fourteen Japanese Academy Awards when it came out, including all the biggies. (It got bupkis at the American Oscars.) This DVD release was apparently brought out in conjunction with the release of the Gere/Lopez remake; it contains previews and a making-of-the-remake documentary. We'll probably check out the remake, even though critics didn't seem to like it much.

Last Modified 2012-10-05 8:52 AM EST