review for Shall We Dance? on AllMovie

Shall We Dance? (1995)
by Jonathan Crow review

Phenomenally successful both at home and abroad, Shall We Dance? boasts expert direction and an engaging, often hilarious script. In a role that established him as one of Japan's most popular leading men, Koji Yakusho is flawless, portraying Shohei with a subtle mix of self-consciousness and squashed dignity. Saddled with a family, mortgage payments, and a job in middle management, he is the very embodiment of a long-suffering Japanese salaryman. Shohei is torn between the wife he loves and the fluid perfection of dance represented by the icy beauty of Mai, and director Masayuki Suo wisely renders this conflict shaded and ambiguous. Though the supporting roles are uniformly well-acted, Naoto Takenaka gives a gleefully scene-stealing performance as a ludicrously flamboyant mambo king. Suo's deft touch fashions a narrative that could have been manipulative and maudlin into an elegant work that fuses humor with wistful melancholy.