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Shohei Sugiyama is the epitome of the orderly, hard-working husband and businessman, living a comfortable suburban life with his faithful wife and daughter. But he feels there’s something missing. Every night from the train, he sees a beautiful girl standing at the upstairs window of a ballroom dance studio. Day after day he looks out for her, until one day he takes the plunge to walk up the stairs and enrol for dancing classes. It is not really the dance which entices him - but the girl - at first, that is. Besides Mai (Tamiyo Kusakari) is not his teacher; he is in an affordable group class that includes middle-aged men like himself and middle-aged women, including Toyoko (Eriko Watanabe). He doesn’t dare tell anyone he knows about his new hobby, not even his family, but discovers that his colleague Aoki (Naoto Takenaka) shares his interest, disguising himself as a passionate Latin dancer. Mai turns Sugiyama down for a dinner invitation, coldly telling him that if he has taken up dancing in order to get to her, he will fail, as she takes dancing very seriously. Suddenly Sugiyama is obsessed in proving Mai wrong. He even enters an amateur dance competition with Toyoko. Mai notices Sugiyama’s new passion for dancing and agrees to coach him for the upcoming competition. By teaching Sugiyama, she learns something herself…

"Strictly Ballroom goes to Japan. While the notion of Ballroom Dancing in Australia is curiously contrary to our culture, ballroom dancing in Japan is even more so. Dancing publicly in the arms of your wife is at best embarrassing, and in the arms of someone else, totally scandalous. These elements make Shall We Dance all the more enchanting and extraordinary. The subtleties and nuances of Japanese culture are exposed in this poignant human tale of loneliness and search for self and happiness. With magical direction and an involving script that makes us genuinely care for the characters, there is a perfect balance between the serious and the ridiculous, reality and fantasy. By the time Shohei Sugiyama (beautifully played by Koji Yakusho) plucks up the courage to walk up the stairs to the dance studio, we are totally on his side. We empathise with his two left feet, and ache at his humiliation from the beautiful girl with the melancholy look. But then things suddenly things change. His obsession with dance makes him feel good about himself and gives him a new lease of life. We cannot help but be moved as we see him practising his steps under his desk, in the toilet, at the bus stop, in the rain…. The script excels in establishing complete characters and their relationships with each other. Sugiyama’s work colleague, Aoki, (Naoto Takenaka is hysterical) who dons an amazing wig when he dances, also dons a new personality - emphasising his double life. A real scene stealer, Aoki is like a wild cat on heat, as he performs high theatre dancing: he looks as though he’s paddling a dinghy with his arms, and grimaces; real belly-laugh material. Yet it is a gentle film, full of charm and human emotion: a rare jewel that deserves the widest audience and profound appreciation. Shall We Dance takes us on a satisfying emotional journey that not only entertains, but narrows the cultural boundaries through the international language of music and dance."
Louise Keller

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CAST: Koji Yakusho, Tamiyo Kusakari, Naoto Takenaka, Eriko Watanabe, Akira Emoto, Yu Tokui, Hiromasa Taguchi, Reiko Kusamura, Hideko Hara, Syuichiro Moriyama, Masahiro Motoki, Misa Shimizu

DIRECTOR: Masayuki Suo

PRODUCER: Shoji Masui, Yuji Ogata

SCRIPT: Masayuki Suo


EDITOR: Jun’ichi Kikuchi

MUSIC: Yoshikazu Suo


RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 1997

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