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269 of 276 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why tamper with perfection
I see over one hundred well-written summaries on these pages, with an average five-star rating. While adding my rave review to the list, I ask the question: Why tamper with perfection? The US-made re-make is about to hit the screens with A-list cast Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon. I know for a fact that a large majority of the U.S. population will...
Published on September 17, 2004 by Andy Orrock

versus
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Movie great, DVD is not
Note, I am NOT referring to the American REMAKE starring Richard Gere. I am referring to this American DVD release of the Japanese film.

I give this Japanese movie 5 stars. However, I give this particular product one star. This American DVD release cut almost 20 minutes from the full Japanese version! Also, the voiceover narration at the beginning of the...
Published on May 9, 2008 by theSshow


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269 of 276 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why tamper with perfection, September 17, 2004
This review is from: Shall We Dance? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I see over one hundred well-written summaries on these pages, with an average five-star rating. While adding my rave review to the list, I ask the question: Why tamper with perfection? The US-made re-make is about to hit the screens with A-list cast Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon. I know for a fact that a large majority of the U.S. population will never watch a subtitled film, so I can understand the reason for re-making it. However, I think everyone who has written here will agree that there's no way this Gere/Lopez/Sarandon re-make will capture the spirit of the original, certainly not the two driving forces that propel it.

First, there's the drudgery of the Japanese salaryman...like millions of others Tokyo-based wage slaves, Koji Yakusho's unhappy accountant takes his hours-long train ride home each evening, beaten down a bit more by his lot in life. He spies a dance studio, a dancer...and slowly - night after night - develops a small dream. The night he finally decides to get off the train is a magnificent scene...there's a complete struggle going on inside his body to hop off and stay off that train. I wonder how the re-make will possibly capture even a smidgen of that angst.

Second, there are the strong mores of Japanese society and the overrriding ethos of "the upright nail gets hammered down." In the U.S., to a large extent, the spirit of the individual endures - if you want to dance, you dance. In Japan, not only is Koji Yakusho's character battling himself, he's battling his country's perception of his decision to dance, which basically can be summarized as: "Guys don't." Again, I challenge the re-make to capture this tension.

I will point out that I'm not dead set against any re-make: I'm a big fan of the Argentinian film "Nueve Reinas," and thought that 2929 Entertainment's recently released "Criminal" really compared quite well to the original. Still, I urge those of you with any interest in seeing the upcoming release of "Shall We Dance" to do yourself a favor and invest 118 minutes in the original, a great look at Japanese society.
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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shall We DVD?, May 23, 2003
By A Customer
Since this movie is one that I could easily watch over and over, I have been waiting for it to come out on DVD. You don't have to know anything about ballroom dancing to enjoy it; it's simply a story of breaking out of the day-to-day drabness and doing something you love.
I have several favorite characters in the movie; one is the private detective who's hired by the main character's wife to find out where he's been going at night. The private eye is all business at first, but after tailing his client's husband, he slowly gets drawn into the world of competitive dancing. The other is the shy, overweight, diabetic young man who takes up dancing on his doctor's orders to get some exercise. The scene where he bursts into tears, asking, "Am I really so terrible?" (I forget the exact words) had me in tears myself. The change in this character by the end of the film is amazing.
It's a cliché, but this is a true "feel good" movie, and proof that you don't have to have sex, profanity, and violence to have an engrossing adult film.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Movie great, DVD is not, May 9, 2008
By 
theSshow (Boston, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Shall We Dance? (1996) (DVD)
Note, I am NOT referring to the American REMAKE starring Richard Gere. I am referring to this American DVD release of the Japanese film.

I give this Japanese movie 5 stars. However, I give this particular product one star. This American DVD release cut almost 20 minutes from the full Japanese version! Also, the voiceover narration at the beginning of the film is altered! I understand why the studios might think that the film in its entirety might not "sit well" with American audiences, but I honestly don't think that would've changed people's opinion of this classic film.

Perhaps, most of you do not mind, but that is a great travesty to me.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, I'd love to "Dance", October 15, 2004
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Shall We Dance? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Masayuki Suo won over audiences across the world with "Shall We Dance?", a sweet crowd-pleasing dance flick. Despite its serious look at Japanese culture, it's a charming and funny story about a man struggling to inject some sparkle into an unfulfilling life, and the dance that helps him do it.

Shohei Sugiyama (Koji Yakusho) is a successful businessman, with a lovely house, loving wife, and a lovely teen daughter. But though he has everything a person could want, he is unhappy and doesn't even know why. But one day on the way home, he sees a beautiful woman (Tamiyo Kusakari) looking sadly out of a dance studio. He sees her there every day, and eventually he hops out of the train and signs up for dancing lessons.

Since ballroom dancing is frowned on in Japan, Sugiyama keeps his lessons a secret, and it's a bit of a struggle for him to overcome his natural stiffness. Because of his odd hours and the perfume on his shirts, his wife is afraid that he's having an affair, and hires a detective to follow him. But after Mai rejects him, Sugiyama begins to have a love affair -- with ballroom dancing itself.

There's something very sweet and pure about "Shall We Dance?", which you hardly ever see in movies. Not just because of the lack of naughty material in it, but because the story itself has a sweet joy just ingrained into the dancing, the dialogue, and the way Sugiyama drags himself from the doldrums.

In Japan, ballroom dancing is considered kind of embarrassing and seductive, which gives Sugiyama's passion for the dance a "forbidden fruit" quality. But the film doesn't lapse into cliche territory. Sugiyama's affection for the beautiful Mai is based in something more than attraction, since he senses that she is as sad as he is. Their growing relationship is a beautiful thing to watch.

But don't think that it's all dancing and depression. Masayuki Suo gives the film some comic flair with a systems analyst who clearly has fantasies about being a wild-dancing Latin lover. But the director never descends to slapstick or hijinks, preferring to stick to the warm'n'fuzzy brand of comedy. The scripting is solid, with plenty of quotable gems like "Dance is more than the steps. Feel the music and dance for sheer joy." That could have been the tagline for this film.

Koji Yakusyo is entirely lovable as Sugiyama -- you can actually see this everyman getting happier as he gets more and more into his dancing lessons. Ballerina Tamiyo Kusakari plays Mai with sensitivity and depth, managing to convey a wealth of emotion in small gestures. The supporting characters, like the graceless Tanaka and the hysterical Aoki aren't as well fleshed out, but they are lovable.

"Shall We Dance?" is a unique little movie about joie de vivre. It's not a truly great film, but it is a wonderful one that will leave you with a smile on your face.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly charming comedy from Japan, better than Star Wars!, May 22, 2000
By 
This review is from: Shall We Dance? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I didn't even like ballroom dancing when I saw this, but after watching it in the cinema, I was hooked. I watched this movie in the cinema with very low expectations and even prepared to walk out, but it was one of the most beautifully scripted and directed films I have ever seen.
The acting was understated, and sympathised with the constraints of Japanese social culture. This film is a maturer persons 'Dirty Dancing' or 'Strictly Ballroom'. It is a very romantic comedy with truly hilarious scenes and strange characters which few Western actors could emulate.
Far from walking out, it almost brought a tear to my manly eye (It's a Wonderful Life, and The Sound of Music being the only two other movies to do so).
Watch this at home with a cup of hot chocolate and any other comfort food, and prepare to be charmed by some quality Japanese cinema (non-violent for a change).
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice movie for all ages - for a nice quiet viewing, June 6, 2001
By 
Susan Chen (East Hartford, CT United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Shall We Dance? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
No sex, no violence, nothing suggestive...good clean family movie. The story can touch people of all ages because it addresses: boredom in a stable marriage, a suspicious spouse, a teenager embarrassed of her parent, people with "two left feet" who try to learn how to dance, the difference between good teachers and bad teachers, fear of failure, unrequited love (or the secret admirer), family enstrangement, persistence, how one of your office co-workers could be leading a double life, how to handle public embarrassment, and friends who come from unexpected places. The story is well organized, and even if you don't read the subtitles you would have an idea of what's going on. My favorite parts are watching the students go from slowly learning the basic steps, all the way to the beautiful moves and costumes of the competition dances. Shows an interesting perspective of office life in Japan, and also brings the universality of ballroom dancing to all cultures. Quite a few moments of light comic relief in the form of one particular quiet co-worker who afterhours imagines himself as a legendary champion dancer. The film shows that it's never too late to try dancing lessons. Great introduction if the thought of dancing ever crossed you mind. Maybe, you'll take that first step; with this movie at least you understand what to expect if you ever go to a dance studio. Have courage...after watching this movie, you'll KNOW that you could definitely do better than some of the dance students in this charming movie!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shall we get off our collective butts and make this DVD?, April 9, 2003
By A Customer
When there are so many crummy films floating around out there, this film dances to the front of the line. I was surprised how much I liked this clever and charming film. It was funny and interesting without belly-sliding through the muck-stained sewers like so many other comedies do. Take a chance on this film. It is worth it. And, BTW, please release it on DVD. Now, please. :)
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dancer's Delight!, April 16, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Shall We Dance? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Anyone who has ever taken a ballroom dance class will roll with laughter! The ballroom dance experience seems to be a universal one, with the Japanese equivalents of the dance studio characters we all know. The overweight loser who finds happiness in dancing, the geek who has a cool and powerful dance alter ego, the nerd who endlessly drills on the technical steps ("1 and 2 and . . ."), the suave stud who intimidates with his dancing prowress.
The movie perfectly captures, though, what people (me included) love about social dancing. The protagonist becomes engrossed with his improving dance skills and the joy of dancing. He starts doing what thousands, if not millions, have done before him - he practices his steps while waiting for the train, while working at his desk, even in the office bathroom. Yes, my friends have made fun of me! In the end, we come to realize that technical mastery and public acclaim only go so far - the beauty of a social dance comes from the joy of sharing the dance with another. This movie is an understated delight.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pure, unbridled joy, September 6, 2004
By 
This review is from: Shall We Dance? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Shall we dance" starts with a regular middle aged Japanese salary man returning home from work. When his co-workers ask him to spend the night out on the town, he declines. He rides the late train home in a comatose state, like countless other salarymen. With regards to his accounting job, he says, "I neither like it, nor dislike it; It's my job." This is the state the hero, Mr. Sugiyama, starts in - a state of neither like nor dislike, of neither being alive nor dead. Comatose.

But on the ride home, he catches a glimpse of a melancholy, yet beautiful lady staring out the window of a dance studio. He's intruiged by this woman in a strangely platonic way. His fascination isn't sexual, afterall, he is married and has a daugther. Perhaps he feels as though this woman shares his loneliness, or maybe he sees her as a potential savior. Eitherway, the movie leaves these questions to the audience.

Eventually, it leads to ballroom dancing, and very soon Mr. Sugiyama is taking lessons. He, along with his misfit group of classmates, start from the bottom and work their way up, and through ballroom dance, Mr. Sugiyama revitalizes his life.

This movie is about dancing, but it's about so much more. It is a film that could only work in Japan, where things like dancing, along with other public displays of affection, are considered taboo. The characters in this film, from the taciturn Mr. Sugiyama, to his co-worker who walks in straight lines, find freedom in dance. The movie is a romance, but Mr. Sugiyama's affair is not with the beautiful lady in the window, but with the dance that has helped him find meaning in life.

This film is pure joy. Nearly every scene and every sequence leaps with energy. The characters are loveable and we empathize with them, even if they are rude and overly sensitive at times - it makes them human. As Mr. Sugiyama continues his lessons, we see an added spring to his step, a consistent grin on his face. We can't help but smile too.

Eventually, the film leads to some sort of competition, like most dancing films do. But by then, we don't care who wins or who loses; that isn't the point. As we are watching Mr. Sugiyama dance, right down to the last sequence, we realize that the point is recognizing the graceful movements of Mr. Sugiyama compared to the rigidity that plauged him when he started. His dancing is an extension of his life, and as Mr. Sugiyama breaks free from his rigid lifestyle, we break free with him.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Shall We Dance?": The Consummate Perfection of Beauty, February 9, 2004
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Shall We Dance? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Shall We Dance?" is my favorite film of all time! Is that saying too much? No!! I'm a great admirer of Japan and Japanese culture, but I was caught totally unaware when I walked into the theater to see this movie. I ended up coming back 15 times, and was only stopped from seeing it again because the theatrical run ended. Then luckily, the movie came out on LaserDisc(not DVD), so I could watch it in better quality video at home. I also have the VHS for my bedroom VCR. The movie translates very well into home video--probably because it's such a warm and sweet-hearted movie. I can't think of another movie that approaches this one for pure ethereal beauty and pure enjoyment. The music is also so great. I won't give anything away but the music is a big part of the success of this movie, but in a very subtle way. I also love without reservation every actor in the film, and every character. From the beautiful, graceful lovely Mai and elegant Sugiyama-san, to Donny Burns-Latin Champ-impersonator Aoki-san and ballroom terror Toyoko-san, and warm hearted Tamako-sensei, you have to love the entire cast of characters. Also, the cinematography is out of this world, capturing the flow of ballroom excitement and beauty and also wistful scenes of Tokyo at night (make sure you watch the entire sequence of the exquisite closing credits at the end). Director and screenwriter Masayuki Suo deserves an honorary Academy Award for this creation of supreme perfection. I encourage you to go to the Amazon.com DVD page for this film and vote to make it available on disc--(it's a national tragedy that this film is not yet available in digital format). I guarantee you won't be sorry to buy this video, and you'll join the thousands of Americans clamoring for its release on DVD. Here's to discovering a priceless gem, and here's to love!
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Shall We Dance? (1996)
Shall We Dance? (1996) by Masayuki Suo (DVD - 2012)
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