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Shall We Dance?
  |     review    |     notes     |     awards     |     availability     |




Availability:

DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Miramax Home Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English, French, and Spanish Subtitles
Trailers and "A Look Inside Hollywood's Shall We Dance?" featurette

DVD (HK)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video, Ltd.
2-DVD Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Dolby Digital 5.1
Various Extras


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Woo Sung Entertainment
2-DVD Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English, Japanese, and Korean Subtitles

Various Extras

Awards:

1997 Japan Academy Prize
• Winner - Best Picture
• Winner - Best Director (Masayuki Suo)
• Winner - Best Actor (Koji Yakusho)
• Winner - Best Actress (Tamiyo Kusakari)
• Winner - Best Supporting Actor (Naoto Takenaka)
• Winner - Best Supporting Actress (Eriko Watanabe)
• Winner - Best Screenplay (Masayuki Suo)
• Winner - Best Cinematography (Naoki Kayano)
• Winner - Best Art Direction (Kyoko Heva)
• Winner - Best Editing (Junichi Kikuchi)
• Winner - Best Lighting (Tatsuya Osada)
• Winner - Best Music Score (Yoshikazu Suo)
• Winner - Best Sound (Kiyoshi Yoneyama)
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Reiko Kusamura)

Notes:
• Remade in 2004 with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in the leading roles.
• The Japanese version begins with a voiceover introducing the history of ballroom dancing in Europe, while the US Version focuses on the Japanese attitudes toward ballroom dancing.
• The Miramax version is 119 minutes long, but the original Japanese cut is 136 minutes, and includes alternate narration in the prologue, additional scenes, and a slightly different ending.
• For a period of time, Shall We Dance was the highest-grossing foreign film in American box office history.
Shall We Dance went on to win numerous awards. In fact, the film won so many awards that the list is too numerous to be posted in full here.

 
Year: 1996
Director: Masayuki Suo
Writer: Shoji Masui, Yuji Ogata
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Tamiya Kusakari, Naoto Takenaka, Eriko Watanabe
The Skinny: A middle-aged workaholic's life takes an exciting turn when he signs up for ballroom dancing classes in this critically acclaimed international hit from Japan. Cute, fun, and genuinely entertaining, Shall We Dance? more than lives up to the hype.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

     Long before the JLo remake or even Hong Kong's Dance of a Dream, there was Shall We Dance?, the original Japanese film that sparked a slew of imitators while winning the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide. The film tells the inspirational, yet often comical story of Shohei Sugiyama (the great Koji Yakusho), a stoic, middle-aged salaryman who seems to have everything a guy could ask for: a house, a job, a loving wife, and a wonderful daughter. But as Shohei slogs back and forth from work, he begins to realize that there's something missing in his life. It's something he can't quite pinpoint, but it's there - and slowly, but surely, it's eating away at his steely resolve.
     Things start to get interesting, however, on his commute home from work when he notices a beautiful woman staring longingly out of the window of the Kishikawa School of Dancing. Each and every night he passes by the studio, looking for her face and wondering what's troubling her. Then one night, Shohei feels the inexplicable urge to flee the train and meet this enigmatic woman. But little does Shohei know that his newfound impulsiveness would toss him right into the thick of the ultra-competitive world of ballroom dancing!
     Although Shohei does actually get to meet Mai Kishikawa (Tamiya Kusakari), the enigmatic woman at the window, she turns out to be someone quite different than he expected, leaving him (and the audience) cold thanks to her not-so-friendly attitude. Something is eating at her, too, and like Shohei, she'll soon learn that the answer to her problems resides in the power of dance. Slowly but surely, the ice queen's cold demeanor will be melted by the enthusiasm of her students as she begins to rediscover her love of the form.
     It seems everyone he meets at the dance studio has a story, with each of them looking to dancing as an escape from the doldrums of everyday existence. Among the motley group of would-be dancers he encounters, Shohei is most surprised by the appearance of his coworker Aoki (Naoto Takenaka in a scene-stealing turn that won him a Best Supporting Actor Award from the Japanese Academy). Although an oft-ridiculed nerdy doormat at the office, Aoki magically becomes a ridiculously over-the-top "Latin Lover" with one of the worst toupees known to man when he sets foot on the dance floor. Takenaka's wildly funny performance when played against consummate straight man Koji Yakusho is a joy to watch, particularly in the office scenes where the two share a secret joy that they find increasingly difficult to hide.
     By story's end, what started out as a lark soon becomes something far more important to Shohei. He falls in love, not with Mai, but with the art of dancing. But when will he stop keeping it a secret from his wife and include her in this new passion that makes him so happy? The climactic final act hinges on this question and provides a more than suitable payoff for all that has come before.
     The premise of Shall We Dance? isn't anything new, but writer/director Masayuki Suo makes the material feel fresh and innovative. Thanks to wonderful performances, a winning storyline, and healthy sense of humor, Shall We Dance? is a genuinely delightful film. Although Masayuki Suo's script is sharp, it's Koji Yakusho and Naoto Takenaka, along with the rest of the cast who bring it to life, inhabiting their roles to such a degree that you actually believe in them and care what happens to each character.
     In addition, the film strikes the perfect balance between drama and comedy, a winning combination that elevates Shall We Dance? head and shoulders above the competition. I could lavish compliments on the film for paragraphs more, but perhaps it's better just to conclude by saying that Masayuki Suo's Shall We Dance? makes for two hours of thoroughly enjoyable entertainment. Like Saturday Night Fever before it, Shall We Dance? showcases a side of dancing that is immensely alluring. Heck, its spirit is so infectious that you just might catch yourself dancing around the room once you've finished the movie. Not saying I did, but you might. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)

 
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