Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Shall We Dance? / Shall We Dansu?(1996)

Wow. I have just been incredibly busy with scrambling to study for exams and projects. I've finally got a chance to enjoy a great cup of white chocolate ice blended drink from Coffee Bean (my absolute favorite in the morning!) and to ruminate on a movie that I just recently saw.

I still have alot of VHS copies. So many nostalgic memories attached to them. As any VHS owner knows, the quality of these tapes just deteriorate rapidly. So I've had to look for DVD versions.

So it was that I was sitting watching a DVD copy of something that I sat through the previews of long ago. The beginning strains of a sweet song that began with "Shall we dance?"began to play and my interest was piqued. The movie was immediately added to my netflix queue.

How did I not know about this movie?!Oh I loved it so much! Someone described this movie as a gently comedy from Japan and I wholeheartedly agree.

Mr. Sugiyama is a quiet and successful accountant. He has worked his life with the steadfast goal to care for his family. But as he goes through the motions of everyday (damn don't we know that dead feeling), he happens to look up and sees a beautiful young woman standing behind a dance studio window.

Now. First thought in your head was:AFFAIR! BASTARD IS GONNA CHEAT ON HIS WIFE!!
And no, sir/madam, you are WRONG! For once this movie does not take the predictable path. Characters in the movie make the same assumption, as a way of acknowledging this belief but the story is beyond all that nonsense.

So, Mr. Sugiyama braves into the dance studio and peeks in. He watches the various couples dance. They're all swishing around doing ballroom dancing. As he stares, he is accidentally pushed into the studio and he is sucked into lessons.

The Japanese culture is very known so it should come as no surprise that ballroom dancing, or any dancing with a non-spouse partner, is seen as perverse and frowned upon. So it takes awhile for Mr. Sugiyama to warm to it. But then he gets swept up in training for a dance competition and he begans to change.

The comedy isn't slapstick, loud, or obnoxious. The jokes highlight the wacky personalities of the dancers and their vulnerabilites. Along with Mr. Sugiyami, he learns alongside a tall,fat man ( who is taking ballroom dancing due to his diabetes) and a short, hyper man (he's the obnoxious, overachiever in the trio). I just love the teacher who helps prod along these poor saps to take the right steps! She has a sweet face and just loads of patience.

The beautiful woman in the window is the haughty Mai. We learn that she is a professional dance with a past. Most of the men are awed by her presence and beauty but she has put up so many barriers that they're afraid to really approach her. Mr. Sugiyami and Mai are thrown together to train for a dance competition. As she struggles to coach Mr. Sugiyami, Mai slowly begins to crack out of her shell.

Two themes in the movie that can still be felt despite being made in 1996 and in Japan. Doesn't matter what country, language, color, blah blah blah. We still suffer from our own personal setbacks. Whether it's a struggle to find our own happiness or just getting over own demons, it takes ourselves to get through that obstacle.I really loved how the movie portrayed those ideas. It wasn't preachy or vague. It was simply there.

This movie rings so true for me. I went through most of middle school, high school, and college with one clear career goal in mind. Then long car ride to visit a friend, I realized I wasn't happy with my goal. I was no longer excited about it. It took many hours of tears, panic, and a pivotal beach conversation with a great friend to realize what made me happy. And I'm still happy with that idea.Whatever makes us happy is not necessarily what we think for ourselves. I'm pretty sure that ballroom dancing wasn't what Mr. Sugiyami thought.

One thing that did bug me was how he got into ballroom dancing in the first place. What is it because of a pretty girl or was it because he was interested? As pure and sweet as this movie is, I am inclined to believe that it was the pretty girl that lead him towards the ballroom dancing and it so happened that he loved it. And I'm ok with that. Well, Ok for the most part. I still wonder what if it was an ugly girl? Oh well.

There's been a remake of the movie that was made in 2004 with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere. After watching this movie and watching the trailer of the 2004 remake, I refuse to watch it. No. The original is too sweet, funny, touching, and amazing to be touched. The cast members were amazing. From the haughty and sad Mai to the awkward and yet strong Mr. Sugiyama

Sometimes it's heartbreaking, sometimes it's mortifying. Mostly funny. Always amazing.

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