*Hidden Gem* Shall We Dance (1996)

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I’d really wanted to see the new Maze Runner film that came out this weekend but couldn’t make it to the theaters. Oh well. That just gives me an oppurtunity to give you a Hidden Gem, it feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve given you one!

This Hidden Gem is Shall We Dance, no, not the 1937 version this isn’t a Throwback and, no, not the 2004 version starring Richard Gere. I want to be very specific and make it abundantly clear that this Gem is completely dedicated to the Japanese version of Shall We Dance or Shall We Dansu starring Koji Yakushu (13 Assassins, Memoirs of a Geisha, Tokyo Sonata) and Tamiyo Kusakari (The Terminal Trust, The Life of Guskou Budori). Mr. Yakushu plays Shohei Sugiyama an accountant who leads a successful life with a loving wife and daughter and a brand new beautiful house in the suburbs. His hard work has payed off handsomely, but he finds himself bored with life. During the commute to and from work he one day takes a look out the window to find a stunning woman looking out of her dance studio windows. He becomes captivated by this woman and before he knows it, he finds himself in her dance studio asking for beginner dance lessons!

He learns his secret crush’s name is Mai Kishikawa, played by Kusakari, but her chilly exterior is quick to put a damper on his feelings for her. However everything comes to a head one night when he tries to ask her out and she accuses him of using dance as a way to make advances towards her. To prove her wrong Mr. Sugiyama delves deeper into the world of dancing and in doing so begins to fall in love with the practice! He is soon asked by one of his instructors Tamako Tamura played by Reiko Kusamura (The Twilight Samurai, Tokyo Boy) to perform in an upcoming dance competition with one of the other dance teachers. However, when his wife Masako Sugiyama played by Hideko Hara (My Grandma, 26 Years Diary, 69) and daughter Chikage Sugiyama played by Ayano Nakamura (Suicide Club, Blue) find out about the competition and his secret life Mr Sugiyama finds himself torn between his regular ordinary life and his love for dancing!

I’ve not seen the 2004 version of this film (nor do I want to) to do a comparison, but I just altogether fell in love with this romantic film about finding your life’s passion. The characters were relatable and all had fantastic back-stories. As the film progresses, you find that everyone the teachers, Mr. Sugiyama’s dance classmates, and of course Mia had a reason to dance and it’s an interesting pattern as each character delves into their perspective on why they chose this path. The chemistry starts off prickly at first between Mr. Sugiyama and Mia but that just makes it all the more fantastic when it eventually blossoms into a friendship in a smooth and slightly loving way that kinda gives you that little ‘Awww’ feeling. The movie adds humor with Mr. Sugiyama’s classmates and his co-worker Tomio Aoki played by Naoto Takenaka (Jellyfish, Ninja Kids!!!, Where the Legend Lives) who also hides his love for dancing from his personal life. The struggle you see with Mr. Yugiyama’s wife and daughter as they struggle to figure out what’s changed their father/husband so much is pretty heart wrenching as they come to the possibility that it’s an affair. For actors who probably knew nothing of dancing before this movie was filmed they did a top-notch performance with both the dancing and the acting! The beginning is probably the only part of the film that’s slow but it builds up real fast and you find yourself happily content with the pace as this fantastic story unfolds.

Rated PG for mild language.

Rotten Tomatoes has this lovely Hidden Gem at a 91% fresh!

Released in Japan in ’96 this movie didn’t make it to our neck of the woods till the summer of 1997. It is in Japanese so subtitles are a must…unless of course you speak Japanese. Duh. I very much urge you to find this Gem and see this spectacular movie. One of those movies that will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy and oddly enough wanting to take up the Rumba. I haven’t seen a movie that’s made me want to take dance lessons since I saw Annie as a kid! So, yeah, well worth the watch!