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Shall We Dance ?  

Country: Japan
Director: Masayuki Suo

Cast:
Yakusho Koji - Sugiyama Shohei
Kusakari Tamiyo - Kishikawa Mai
Takenaka Naoto - Tomio Aoki
Watanabe Eriko - Takahashi Toyoko
Yu Tokui - Tokichi Hattori
Hiromasa Taguchi - Masahiro Tanaka
Kusamura Reiko - Tamako Tamura
Hideko Hara - Sugiyama Masako
Moriyama Shûichirô - Kishikawa Ryo
Masahiro Motoki - Hiromasa Kimoto
Misa Shimizu - Natsuko
Emoto Akira - Toru Miwa

Mr Sugiyama has a problem. With an established career, a house in the suburbs and a family, mid-life crisis looms over the next horizon as he finds his existence to be banal and unchallenging. Then, travelling home on the train one day, he spots a beautiful woman (Mai) looking out of the window of a dancing school, sad and romantic, and on impulse, decides to sign up for dance classes at that school, in order to meet her.

"Shall We Dance?" is a light-hearted, feel-good movie that explores the individual's struggle to loosen the strict bonds of society. It uses the unlikely theme of ballroom dancing, which doesn't sound like much until you realise that in Japan, any kind of close bodily contact between men and women is considered scandalous behaviour. Because of this required paradigm shift in cultural perception, you get an interesting window into Japanese culture, all proper and strait-laced, which makes the comic actions of the characters, such as over-enthusiastic Aoki, all the more funnier. Director Masayuki treats his characters with affection, although they tend to be somewhat simplistic, ranging from a loud-mouthed, brash but ultimately kind-hearted housewife to the painfully shy fat student who discovers his hidden talent for dancing. Only Sugiyama and Mai seems developed to any degree, him a laid-back character who finds an answer to his mid-life crisis, and Mai, a sad woman with a past who warms up as the film progresses. Their relationship does not fall into romanticism as you would normally expect from a Hollywood movie, but ultimately creates a delightful dance of partners to finish in a charming ending for the movie. This is a film about following one's heart, unburdened by melodrama, which should leave anyone with a smile after its conclusion.

Eden Law

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