Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shall We Dance?

I watched the original Japanese version of Shall We Dance, and aside from a couple tedious parts, I quite enjoyed it on the level of a modern fairy tale. However, when it tries to anchor the story in some modestly modern psychological terrain, the movie drags and becomes less enchanting; I thought the principal characters, Mai and Mr. Sugiyama, start off selfishly and don't grow much beyond that starting point, even if they connect or reconnect with some aspect of their lives that had previously been missing. Still, as long as it stays within the fairy tale mode and concentrates on the dancing, the film is especially charming.

The Japanese trailer (I did find an English-language trailer, but the voiceover is really annoying and the one I'm embedding actually gets across the gist of the scenes, I think, which shows that the visual storytelling of the film is really strong):

Some miscellaneous thoughts:

1. I wonder how current or accurate are the film's generality about Japan's cultural dislike for ballroom dance, since I get the impression from SYTYCD that ballroom has a decent foothold in Japan now. Digging around a little, this interview with one of the stars of the film mentions that Shall We Dance sparked an apparently enduring social dance craze.

2. The character of Mai is supposed to be a champion-level ballroom dancer, and she is played by Tamiyo Kusakari, an actual dancer. The thing is, she's a star ballet dancer, which begs the question, How good are the ballroom performances?

3. People who were turned off by Ashleigh's face-pulling in season 6 should check out this dude:

Guy is an absolute fright on the dance floor. (Pro dancers don't gurn and gasp like he does, do they?)

Indie rating: Josie and the Pussycats – "Shapeshifter"


momo said...

I love this movie. The man starts dancing to meet a woman and falls in love with dancing. All the other people he meets there share that love of dancing, no matter how odd they seem. This has been my experience at ballroom dance studios with so many people; they start coming for some kind of social goal and end up getting hooked. No matter how socially awkward we may be outside the studio, inside, it is only the shared love of dance that matters. Once a large group of us had a party and made a video for our dance teachers about a meeting of "danceaholics anonymous." Even though we were telling jokes, everything we said was actually true: "first it was one pair of dance shoes. Then another. Next thing I knew, I was carrying five pairs of dance shoes in the trunk of my car so I could be ready to dance any where, any time."
I haven't danced regularly for two years now, but my new year's resolutioin is to start again.

Leee said...

Have you seen the American version? Do you recommend it?

Christopher Bird said...

Avoid the American version like the plague. In fact, pretend it IS plague. It's about as good for you.

(word verification: "painfairy." How apropos.)

momo said...

ChristopherBird is right, alas! But for good cheesy (emphasis on the cheese) fun, some actual real and famous ballroom dancers in the background and a decent score (and an appearance by my favorite Cuban singer Albita) see Dance With Me, with Vanessa Williams, now on Ugly Betty, as a ballroom dancer who meets a Cuban immigrant played by singer Cheyenne.

Leee said...

Too bad to hear about the Yankee version, which admittedly looked horrible from the trailer. I like Bobby Cannavale in The Station Agent, but he looks terribly miscast in this one.