Eriko Watanabe

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Shall We Dance? (1996) Review


Excellent
There's something about Japanese depression that feels so specific. A 40-something accountant, Shohei Sugiyama (Koji Yakusyo, the intense star of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure), has a high-paying job, a house in the suburbs, and a happy middle-class wife and child. But in his attainment of those yuppie dreams, all the joy and mystery has gone out of his life. One fateful night, riding the train home from work, he sees a beautiful woman staring out the window of a ballroom dance studio. Perhaps intrigued by her look, he ventures into the dance studio.

This quiet, buttoned-down man signs up for dancing lessons, which in Japanese culture is highly suspect. It becomes a guilty secret that he keeps from his wife and child, attracted to the rush of feeling that accompanies ballroom dance. Though initially drawn by the woman (Tamiyo Kusakari), who becomes his instructor, Sugiyama and his equally uncoordinated businessmen-by-day/dancers-by-night classmates are quickly swept up in the magic of the fox trot, the cha cha, the rumba, and, of course, classy ballroom.

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Eriko Watanabe

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