A beautiful film from Japan that screened at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, Shall We Dance? is the story of Sohei, a 42-year-old businessman, living a comfortable suburban life with his faithful wife and adorable daughter. Everything seems to be perfect but Shohei feels something is missing. Every night, on the train home from work, he sees a beautiful lady gazing out from the window of a shabby ballroom dance studio. Although Shohei’s original motivation for learning to dance is to meet Mai, the young woman in the window, he starts to get involved with the class and enjoys the lessons.
The film is now being remade in America and is scheduled for release in 2004. The American version will star Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. In Japan, dancing is NOT highly regarded. In the Japanese film, Sohei had to confront many social and cultural taboos to take dance lessons. It will be interesting to see how this conflict is translated (or replaced) in our culture of flamboyant bodily expression.
I saw Shall We Dance? when it first screen at Sundance. It was extraordinary and stunning. I don’t know if it was the same disastrous year as the Christine Vachon year (see August 2, 2003 entry). It was also the year I saw Kolya. This is the reason I go to film festivals — to see non-traditional, non-Hollywood stories, stories with unique points of view, stunning dramas, shocking documentaries and absurd comedies — stories that you may never see on the American screens. Treat yourself! Get thee to a film festival!