Summary and Notes: Shall We Dance? (1997), Dir. Masayuki Suo

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Mr. Sugiyama, main character, businessman
Masako, his wife
Mai, young dance instructor, tall thin woman
Ms. Tamura. a stately older woman, owner of the dance studio
Mr. Aoki, co-worker of Mr. Sugiyama, a slight nervous man
Toyoko, one of the dance instructors, a loud and energetic woman
Mr. Tanaka, takes lessons at the dance studio—overweight and always sweating
Mr. Hattori, takes lessons at the dance studio—short and excitable
Mr. Miwa, a private detective

  1. Scene of Ballroom Dance competition at Blackpool, England. Graphics: "In Japan ballroom dancing is regarded with much suspicion. In a country where married couples don’t go out arm in arm, much less say, "I love you" out loud, intuitive understanding is everything. The idea that a husband and wife should embrace and dance in front of others is beyond embarrassing. However, to go out dancing with someone else would be misunderstood and prove more shameful. Still even for the people there is wonder at the joys that dance can bring."
  2. Mr. Sugiyama and two co-workers after work and after some drinking at a downtown restaurant. One of the workers is bit tipsy and complains loudly when Mr. Sugiyama leaves early. "It’s 9:00!" Mr. Sugiyama on his way home from work. He is nearly asleep standing up, packed into the subway car. Suddenly at a stop he notices a mysterious woman standing at the window of the dance studio. Notice the point of view—reaction shots and the changing camera proxemics.
  3. Mr. Sugiyama at home. He goes right to bed, despite his wife’s offer of food. 5:30 the next morning he’s up again, has some rice from the cooker, and pedals his bike to the station. A brief scene between his wife and daughter in the house. His wife thinks he seems depressed lately. "So get up and make him his breakfast," the teenaged daughter says. At work in the office. Mr. Sugiyama daydreams at his desk. A coworker, Mr. Aoki, drops something off. He seems to have a robotic type of walk—as if he’s practicing steps. Mr. Aoki is the butt of jokes from other workers. "Some systems analyst. He doesn’t even know Windows."
  4. Mr. Sugiyama on the subway home. He sees the young woman a second time. This time she is dancing with someone. Cut to him at his desk at home in front of a computer. Notice the great image of the galaxies of stars on his screen saver—a metaphor for his own thought process. Instead of working he is reading a dance catalog. His daughter steps in and asks him when he will be off the computer. Why this secrecy? Cut to his point of view: the dance school window. But she is not there. His reaction shot. Then he steps off the train. He stands below the building but can’t move forward. He groans. Then he’s back at the station platform. He looks across at the studio. There she is again. She is a perfect image. His reaction shot. Cut to him standing outside the door of the studio. A woman, whose name is Toyoko, pushes past him, and Mr. Sugiyama falls as the door opens in front of him.
  5. He gets up and signs up for lessons. He thinks Mai will be his teacher, but he learns private lessons are very expensive. So he signs up for cheaper group lessons. OF course, Mr. Sugiyama presumes that Mai will be his teacher. He seems nervous, but excited about this new venture. Cut to a brief scene of him buying dancing shoes. Cut back to the dance studio. Mr. Sugiyama puts on his shoes and looks around the studio. Two men are practicing by themselves. A third man is sitting down. A fourth, a young man and a good dancer, is dancing with Toyoko. He watches Mai and squirms in anticipation of her being his teacher. Suddenly Mrs. Tamura, an attractive but matronly older woman, calls out, "Class is ready to begin." Mr. Sugiyama realizes Mai will not be his teacher after all. The beginner’s class consists of Mr. Sugiyama, Mr. Hattori, and Mr. Tanaka. Mr. Tanaka is a young man, overweight and sweating. Mr. Hattori is a short middle-aged man, extroverted, eager to help.
  6. Mrs. Tamura explains the various ballroom dances. Mr. Sugiyama looks nervous and stiff. He can’t keep his eyes off Mai. Mrs. Tamura begins the lesson with basics. One foot forward, then the other, then the first. "Quick, quick, slow." Mr. Sugiyama has a difficult time learning the steps. Tanaka catches on before Mr. Sugiyama does. In the background, Toyoko watches them. Poor Mr. Sugiyama is desperate. He sits down and seems exhausted. Again he can’t help but stare at Mai, as she dances with another man. Suddenly Toyoko, who has come to sit next to him, catches on that Mr. Sugiyama is taking lessons because he is infatuated with Mai. He’s not the first man to be so infatuated. Toyoko tells him Mai split up with her partner—otherwise, she wouldn’t be teaching classes here. Notice how four characters are shown together in the frame, with Mr. Sugiyama in the foreground. Then Toyoko asks, "Wonder how long you’ll last?" and steps into the middle of the dance floor, where she whirls around provocatively as if moving to a Latin beat.
  7. The three beginning students go out to dinner. They share why they are taking dance lessons. As for Mr. Sugiyama, he’s taking lessons because he heard it was good for his health. Mr. Tanaka even says that when he comes to lessons, he always looks around to make sure no one has seen him enter. Cut to Mr. Sugiyama standing outside the dance studio. Guess what? He looks around to see if anyone notices him enter. Another scene of Mr. Sugiyama taking a dance lesson with Mrs. Tamura. Again he sneaks a peak at Mai. He looks away when she returns his gaze.
  8. Transition to a montage sequence. Mr. Sugiyama rides his bicycle to the station with renewed energy. The music is a jazzy version of "Save the last dance for me." Again Toyoko notices that Mr. Sugiyama can’t take his eyes off Mai. A quick scene of Mr. Sugiyama’s wife at home, alone. Back to the studio for more shots of lessons. Now all three beginners seem to be catching on. Everyone applauds Mr. Sugiyama when he gets it right. But then he sneaks a peek over at Mai and notices how unhappy she looks as she stands at the window.
  9. Masako, Mr. Sugiyama’s wife, at home with her daughter. They talk about Dad’s changed attitude. He seems cheered up. "Wonder what cheered him up?" Masako muses. Cut to the dance studio, where Mr. Sugiyama watches a passionate Latin dance between a man and a younger woman. The man is wearing an awful wig, and it happens to be Mr. Sugiyama’s co-worker Mr. Aoki. When Mr. Aoki notices Mr. Sugiyama is there, he hides behind the pillar in the center of the studio. When he bumps into Toyoko, who is dancing with another partner, she throws a fit. She accuses him of being a "cheap imitation of Donny Burns (apparently a slick dancer with sexy moves)." Mr. Aoki is humiliated. But when Mr. Aoki calls Toyoko a few choice names, she pulls off his wig. Now he runs over to the wall and hides his head. Mr. Sugiyama suddenly recognizes him. His young partner decides to drop him after such a scene. Mr. Aoki hides behind the pillar again.
  10. Later the two men talk at a restaurant. Mr. Aoki is dedicated to dancing. He has been taking lessons for five years.

Mr. Aoki: "When I finish work, put on the clothes, and the wig, and become Donny Burns, and I start to move to the rhythm, I ‘m so happy, so completely free."

Mr. Sugiyama listens courteously. Mr. Sugiyama agrees to keep his secret at the office. Mr. Aoki invites Mr. Sugiyama to an amateur dance competition.

  1. Mr. Sugiyama attends a dance party with Mr. Aoki. Mr. Tanaka is also there. But when Mr. Sugiyama tries to dance with an older woman, he steps on her foot. Later, he practices alone-—at home. His daughter spots him. His wife, Masako, goes to a private detective, Mr. Miwa, and explains she wants to find out if Mr. Sugiyama is having an affair. Mr. Miwa is very matter of fact and kindly. She can’t afford his full fee, so he works a deal to save her some money. He’ll budget three days and give her a refund if it takes less time.
  2. Back at the studio Mr. Sugiyama gets his first opportunity to dance a waltz with Mai, who is filling in for Ms. Tamura. Notice shot selection—insert close-up of the two arms reaching out to each other—and in the same shot the nervous Mr. Sugiyama entering the frame from the left, the confident Mai entering the frame from the right. Then a closer shot of the two dancing. In the background a young man takes a picture of the two. He tells Toyoko he is a journalist. Later, Mr. Sugiyama gets off the train again (followed by Mr. Miwa) and waits until everyone else has left the studio before he approaches Mai when she leaves work. He asks her out to dinner, and it is apparent that he is nervous as a schoolboy. But she makes it clear she is not interested in a relationship:

Mai:

"I prefer not to have private contact with students." He accepts this. But she has more to say. As she speaks, note we watch Mr. Sugiyama in a great reaction shot. "I hope you did not join the class with me as your goal. I take dancing very seriously. Don’t dance if that’s what you’re after."

She walks off. Last reaction shot of Mr. Sugiyama.

  1. Masako, Mr. Sugiyama’s wife, gets the report from Mr. Miwa. There is no affair. Mr. Sugiyama is simply taking ballroom dancing lessons. Mr. Miwa does not think he will continue dancing much longer. "He will tire of it." Masako says, "I wonder." Cut to Mr. Sugiyama looking out the subway train window again. His point of view shot of Mai dancing behind the window. He jumps off the train. He returns to class and works hard with Mrs. Tamura. Meanwhile, Masako sits alone at home. A second montage. Now Mr. Sugiyama seems committed to ballroom dancing. He practices steps sitting in this office chair. He practices with a larger group at the dance studio. Mai even sees him practicing steps on the subway platform. Meanwhile, Masako practices dance steps at home. Back on the subway, Mr. Miwa and his young associate watch him as he practices steps from his seat. Then they spy on him from the platform near his house as he practices steps and body posture (he even wears a metal back brace to keep his spine straight.)
  2. Mr. Sugiyama and Mr. Aoki in the bathroom at work. Mr. Aoki compliments Mr. Sugiyama for his vast improvement. "Your posture is good." Then Mr. Sugiyama and Mr. Aoki attend another dance party. Ms. Tamura spots him there, and they talk. "I moonlight here to keep dancing," she says. Mr. Miwa is there, too, swaying to the music. Meanwhile, Mr. Aoki is trying out another partner—a young woman. Mrs. Tamura comments that Mr. Aoki should choose Toyoko as his dance partner. Cut to a scene between Mr. Aoki and his young partner. Suddenly a handsome younger man comes along and steals her away from him. When Ms. Tamaru hears the song "Shall We Dance?" (from the Yul Brenner film The King and I), she asks Mr. Sugiyama to dance with her.

Ms. Tamura:

"It was that film that made me fall in love with dance," she tells him. They circle the floor like two professionals. "Dance is more than the steps," she says. "Feel the music and just dance for the sheer joy.

Then they bump into Toyoko, who has been dancing with Mr. Miwa! She pulled him away from the background, and he couldn’t resist her.

  1. Suddenly Toyoko spots a handsome young man seated in the balcony above the dance floor. It’s Mr. Kimoto, a famous dancer. She notes that he recently split with his partner. Then they see Mai climbing the stairs to talk to him. More exposition. Mai and Mr. Kimoto danced at Blackpool, the great international competition, but then they split up. Why? More rumors: Toyoko thinks the two may be in love.
  2. Then the scene changes to the balcony, and we listen in on the conversation between Mr. Kimoto, Mai’s former ballroom dancing partner. He asks her to dance with him, but she isn’t interesting in dancing in this place. "This is not ballroom dancing," she complains. "Lounge lizards and showgirls," she says, as we see examples. So what, he says. "They’re having a wonderful time." He states his case, and then cut to a reaction shot of Mai. She doesn’t look happy.

Mr. Kimoto:

"So there’s no hope for me?" She wonders if this is some sort of test. "It wasn’t intended to be, but it is now." She can’t dance in this place. "That’s a shame," he says. "You should lighten up and enjoy your dancing. It’s more than any competition."

Wide shot of Mai going downstairs. Cut to reaction shot of Mr. Sugiyama—he was watching her all this time. Another point of view shot as we see her leave. Then reaction shot to Mr. Sugiyama. Then we follow Mr. Aoki’s progress on the dance floor. He isn’t having much luck. He tries to exact revenge on the younger man, but his partner looks uncomfortable and anxious.

  1. After the dance party, Mr. Aoki’s partner leaves him. She tells him the way he acts when dancing is "creepy." Later, Toyoko is at the studio trying out Mr. Tanaka, the overweight beginner, as a possible partner for a later competition. But she gives up on him. She even insults Mr. Hattori, who has to be restrained from attacking her by Mr. Sugiyama. Then Mr. Tanaka tells Toyoko off—because she was so rude to him.

Mr. Tanaka:

"Am I that disgusting? The first girl I ever liked said that to me. And I wasn’t even dancing." He tells her how much he has enjoyed dancing. "My doctor recommended dancing for exercise. At first I was embarrassed, but soon all my cares were gone, like being drunk, my heart singing, fireworks exploding in my head, all my worries forgotten. And I began to love dance." He is crying. "Even when I’m dancing, do I really look that bad?"

Toyoko looks embarrassed. Cut to Mrs. Tamura, who says, "Of course you don’t." Wide shot of Toyoko. She apologizes, and then drops to the floor right in front of Mr. Tanaka. She is out cold. We cut to the hospital, where Mr. Sugiyama, Mai, and Ms. Tamura (and Toyoko’s daughter) are there. She is okay, but worn out from overwork. The daughter says Toyoko has spoken about Mr. Sugiyama. She told the daughter "you were elegant, a little like my late father. She was sad to hear you had a family." Mr. Sugiyama seems embarrassed by this praise.

  1. On the way home from the hospital, Mr. Sugiyama, Mai, and Ms. Tamura stop on the steps by another dance studio.
  1. High angle, crane shot shows Mr. Sugiyama, Mia, and Mrs. Tamura walking up the stairs. The camera lowers as they near the top of the stairs. Mai is slightly ahead of them. Now the camera set up is a point of view shot from the group of three—as they stand in front of the window of a dance studio.
  2. Cut to a closer view through the window. Couples are dancing.
  3. Reverse angle shows Mr. Sugiyama and Mrs. Tamura in the foreground, Mai above and behind them. Mrs. Tamura has an idea: Mr. Sugiyama should be Toyoko’s partner, since he reminds her of her late husband.
  4. Cut to a view of Mr. Sugiyama and Mrs. Tamura from the side. Mrs. Tamura is in the foreground. "Dance begins with the feelings of the dancer." She decides to devote two hours a night, three times a week, to perfecting Mr. Sugiyama’s style. She is confident they will succeed. "Isn’t that right, Mai?"
  5. Reaction shot of Mai (Mrs. Tamura’s point of view). Mai nods, then looks back to the window.
  6. Her point of view. Through the window she sees a young girl practicing steps by herself.
  7. Change to another angle of Mai’s point of view. But she isn’t looking in that direction (down to Mr. Sugiyama). She is still looking through the window. She is in the foreground, out of focus. Below her, in what should be the subject of her point of view, is Mr. Sugiyama. He looks up at Mai, as he has done through the film, and ponders her fate. Then he looks back toward the dance studio.
  1. Toyoko is ready to dance. Her first attempts with Mr. Sugiyama are not too successful. He seems stiff, afraid. They try three dances, but Toyoko seems frustrated with his inability to fit her style. Meanwhile, Mai looks on with interest. Cut to a short scene between Mr. Aoki and Mr. Sugiyama in the bathroom. Mr. Sugiyama has noticed that Mr. Aoki has not been to the dance studio for a while. Mr. Sugiyama tells him he has been entered in the competition. Poor Mr. Aoki walks out somberly, but doesn’t forget to pivot perfectly, like a good dancer.
  2. Back in the studio. Mr. Aoki shows up again. He is not wearing his hairpiece. Ms. Tamura realizes that Mr. Aoki would make a good partner with Toyoko for the Latin Dances—since he is more than passionate about those dances. Then Mr. Sugiyama and Toyoko could be partners for the quick step and waltz. Toyoko talks to Mr. Aoki briefly. She catches on that his latest partner must have dumped him. Poor Mr. Aoki breaks down. "She said my dancing make her sick!" No one says anything more to him. Suddenly Mrs. Tamura asks Mai to work with Mr. Sugiyama while she watches the other couple. Mr. Aoki (having donned his wig) and Toyoko dance a Latin dance while Mr. Sugiyama and Mai dance a waltz. Suddenly Mai yells at Mr. Sugiyama for not committing to his partner. She tries again. No luck. Reaction shot of Mrs. Tamura looking on, a serene expression on her face. Mai keeps after him. She explains what it means to make a strong first step. She insists that he lean into her body. "Be confident, find your stride." She grabs him around the waist and pulls him into her. He reacts. "Shall we?" she says. They try again. He doesn’t do it right. Again. This time he gets it right. "She reacts. "Yes, that’s more like it." Notice the good reverse angle shots in that interaction. Then cut to a wide shot as Mai shows Mr. Sugiyama how to hold Toyoko. Notice how Mr. Aoki keeps working out against the pillar behind them. Then focus on Mr. Sugiyama. He’s ready for the big stride with Toyoko. She loves his firmness and resolution. Then Mrs. Tamura asks Mai if she would tutor the two for the waltz competition. Mai agrees.
  3. The third montage, played to an upbeat version of the "Save the Last Dance for Me." Several comic shots and then a focus on Mai’s teaching technique. She lays out the quick step on a chart. Then Mai and a young man shows Mr. Sugiyama how it is done. Then we see Mr. Sugiyama and practicing alone in the rain. Then Mai dances along with Mr. Sugiyama and Toyoko to help them learn their dance steps. Mai then teaches them the waltz steps, especially the "layback," where the man drops the woman and both lean back in balance. The montage ends with a comic scene of Mr. Sugiyama and Toyoko falling down--not able to maintain their balance in this position. Toyoko takes a break and leaves Mai and Mr. Sugiyama alone.
  4. Mr. Sugiyama says, "Every day I feel so alive." Mai admits, "It’s been a long time since I felt this enthusiastic." She goes to the window, where Mr. Sugiyama first spotted her. She reminisces about the first time she was ever at Blackpool to see the international dance competition. She was five, and she remembers seeing a man protect his partner when they accidentally fell at the Blackpool competition. "Since that day, dance has become my entire world." Then Mr. Sugiyama tells her about seeing her standing by the window—that’s why he began taking lessons. Notice the use of wide shots.

Mr. Sugiyama:

When I saw you, somehow I felt relieved, or disappointed if you weren’t there. Your melancholy look totally charmed me. I married at 28. Had a child by 30. At 40 I bought the home I longed for. I’ve worked so hard for these things. I thought it was a happy life. But after I bought the house, something changed. Something was still missing. Then you appeared. Seeing you there made me want just one time to dance with you." She interrupts him. "Even after I was so rude to you." He admits, "I really felt like giving up, but if I had, I would have been everything you accused me of. Of course, it’s true that affection for you was what brought me to the class. But to be confronted with it was a shock. I wanted to prove to you that it wasn’t because of you that I’d said I was here to dance. But (reaction shot of Mai—then back to him) no sooner did I decide to continue, than I really began to like it."

Mai:

Mai’s reaction shot. "I was watching you too." His reaction shot. Her reaction shot. She looks out the window: "From the window here, I saw you practicing on the platform. It warmed my heart. I’ll never forget it." Cut to wide shot of the two.

  1. Close shot of Masako, sitting alone at home. Then to the JADA (Japan Amateur Dance Association) competition where Mr. Sugiyama and Toyoko will be partners. First we watch Mr. Aoki and Toyoko dance the Latin Dances. Mr. Aoki works hard to fight off the nasty younger male dancer we saw working against him before. After the dance, Toyoko complains about his ugly wig, so he takes it off and hurls it onto the dance floor. The next dance Mr. Aoki dances with abandon. Other shots show Mr. Tanaka and a young partner dancing nicely. Back to Mr. Aoki and Toyoko. They qualify for the next round, and Mr. Aoki’s latest arch rival, a younger man, is eliminated.
  2. Later, the big dance with Mr. Sugiyama and Toyoko. Suddenly we notice that his wife and daughter have arrived. Obviously, Mr. Miwa decided to call her and invite her to come. Before the dance Mrs. Tamura tells Mr. Sugiyama, "Just flow with the music and enjoy the dance." Mai stands next to her and looks on contentedly. Mr. Sugiyama smiles. The waltz begins, and Mr. Sugiyama and Toyoko are brilliant. Masako and her daughter are in the audience. "So close and yet he doesn’t even notice us," she says. Before the next dance, Toyoko tells him she heard someone call, "C’mon Dad!" from the audience. But he can’t believe Masako and his daughter are there. Suddenly Mr. Sugiyama spots his family in the audience after his daughter calls out a second time. He freezes, and someone bumps him. He bumps into Toyoko, but holds her up. Then the bottom of her dress rips off. She stands there with her pantyhose showing. Then she runs off. Reaction shot of Mr. Sugiyama. Reaction shot of Masako and her daughter. Reaction shot of Mr. Sugiyama. Reaction sot of Masako. Reaction shot of Mr. Sugiyama from another angle. Suddenly his face goes out of focus, and in the background we see Mai watching him. Wide shot of Masako and her daughter leaving. Cut to wider shot of same, from Mr. Sugiyama’s point of view.
  3. At home later, Masako and Mr. Sugiyama talk about what happened. They sit on opposite sides of the room. They both realize they were keeping secrets from the other partner.

Masako:

"At first I thought it was an affair. I was relieved at first to find out it wasn’t." Cut to a different angle, Masako in the foreground, still looking away from Mr. Sugiyama, and Mr. Sugiyama in the background. "But I couldn’t understand why. It brought you to life. I felt completely on my own. Today when I saw you, it was even harder to understand. Even if it was only dancing, it was still an affair."

Then to a parallel track of close shots between husband and wife. Mr. Sugiyama admits that he was seriously involved in the dance, and he tells her he will give it up. Cut to Mr. Sugiyama riding his bike to the station. He has the old haggard, tired look we saw before he took lessons.

  1. Later, at work, Mr. Sugiyama defends Mr. Aoki when some of the coworkers (talking about an article in a dance magazine) make fun of Mr. Aoki. They call him the "bald jerk." Then a woman laughs, "Ballroom dancing, of all things." Finally Mr. Sugiyama explodes. "There’s nothing wrong with it! If you’ve never danced, you would watch what you say." Camera moves to the left slightly, to reveal Mr. Aoki has been standing just out of sight and listening to the workers make fun of him.
  2. Days later, Toyoko and Mr. Aoki stop at Mr. Sugiyama’s house and urge him to continue taking dance lessons. Toyoko has forgiven Mr. Sugiyama for the error during the waltz competition. But he tells them his dancing days are over. They invite him to Mai’s farewell party. She is going to prepare for dancing at Blackpool again. Toyoko gives him a letter from Mai. Later, he reads the letter.
  1. (Cut to Mai standing at the window). "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. In the competition you danced superbly.
  2. (Cut to wide shot of Mai in the empty dance studio.) You did your utmost to protect Toyoko.
  3. (She begins to dance around the studio.) That’s why Toyoko wants to dance with you again. Remember I once told you about Blackpool? I didn’t tell you about my failure there. I never really faced up to it myself. Now I can tell you about it."
  4. (Cut to wide shot of the great dance floor at Blackpool.) The audience’s support for us was overwhelming. We made it to the semi-finals.
  5. (Cut to shot of Mai and her partner dancing.) I was thrilled and moved, and I danced my best ever.
  6. (Cut to them doing the quick step.) Then, just like you, we collided.
  7. (Cut to Mai as she falls to the dance floor.)
  8. (Cut to wide shot of Mai walking alone on the beach.) I blamed my partner. Why didn't he protect me? His reaction stunned me. He wanted us to break up.
  9. (Cut to rainy window, camera back, shows Mai standing in the studio near the window.) When I returned to Japan, I wanted to show him up. I looked for a top-class dancer. But my father wouldn’t let me take a new partner. I taught at his school.
  10. (She leans sadly against the pillar). I was so unhappy, reluctantly teaching.
  11. (Cut to Mai standing at the window and looking out—the shot Mr. Sugiyama remembers.) Then you arrived at the school.
  12. (Cut to scene of Mai helping Mr. Sugiyama and Toyoko practice.) During the months of practice, something began to change within me. I came to realize I had always danced alone, never fully trusting my partner.
  13. (Cut to scene of Mai dancing with Mr. Sugiyama—helping him learn the steps.) I realized that my failure was not my partner’s fault. It was only a natural result of my dancing only for myself.
  14. (Cut to shot of Mai dancing along with Toyoko and Mr. Sugiyama.) It was you who taught me the splendor of dance, when you trust and enjoy.
  15. (Cut to Mr. Sugiyama reading the letter.) I decided to start again from the beginning. Thank you very much. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the party.
  1. Later at home, Mr. Sugiyama tells Masako he isn’t going to the party. But she urges him to go. She tells him, "I would rather have you full of life, than see you look so down." Then she asks, "Dance with me the way you would dance with her." He blows up at her and jumps up from the sofa. But then he sees his daughter standing in her doorway. She is angry. "Why don’t you dance with Mom?" She grabs them, takes them out into the front yard in the dark, and asks them to dance. Mr. Sugiyama calmly begins to teach Masako the steps. "Quick quick, slow slow." The daughter stands by and admires them. Mr. Sugiyama draws his wife closer to him and says, "I’m sorry for making you feel so lonely. They dance.
  2. The next morning, Mr. Sugiyama sees his tuxedo hanging in the living room—waiting for him to take with him. But he doesn’t take it. Mai’s farewell party. But Mr. Sugiyama is not there. Scenes of the party are parallel cut with scenes of Mr. Sugiyama alone at an arcade. We see him on the subway, and at the dance studio stop, he looks up at the building and sees a sign on the outside, "Shall we Dance, Mr. Sugiyama?" The train pulls away from the station. He’s still inside. Finally, the moment comes for the last dance. Mai gets to choose her partner. The spotlight swings around and around, and finally it reveals a latecomer to the party, Mr. Sugiyama, who stands bowed and nervous in the light. Mai spots him and walks up to him. She asks, "Shall we dance?" They begin a beautiful waltz, and soon the other couples join in too.

Film resource written by Robert Yahnke
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke,  © 2009
Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
Request permission from the author to reprint this resource--for educational use only


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