The Film: Shall We Dance? [Shall we dansu?] – Japan
I hadn’t seen Shall We Dance in a few years but watching it again felt like visiting old friends. I heard the voice of the dance instructor Tamako Tamura and instantly smiled. The men in the beginners class made me laugh just like the first time. Rarely does such a comment on culture and humanity come in such an easy to watch package.
The story is intimate but writer and director Masayuki Suo tells it effortlessly. One shy businessman makes a decision which changes the lives of those around him. The non-tradtional approach to storytelling has a poetry, a rhythm.
My favorite thing about the film is it’s lack of created conflict. Like a cultured pearl, Hollywood scripts are required to ratchet up the drama, throw problems in the way of their protagonists, create turmoil, then achieve change before it ends with a lesson learned. Yeah, it’s a movie, and I love a lot of films with this formula. But it is a simulation of the real world. Shall We Dance is a natural pearl, a gem of a film. The conflict comes from inside. Identity and masculinity, of personality and culture — these are all fighting inside, each character dealing with a perception versus the reality of themselves. This honesty is harder to achieve, harder to portray when audiences are so used to being fed black and white narratives. The character is in trouble, the character changes. But Masayuki Suo goes beyond standard format into a genuine reflection of reality.
The best way to see this is when [spoiler alert] in mid-argument Chikage Sugiyama pulls her parents into the garden and tells her dad to dance with her mom. As they dance, he tells her “I’m sorry if I made you feel lonely.” And that’s it. It’s perfect because as you’ve been watching her wait for him to come home, you’ve seen loneliness — but it was never treated as a set up. It was a consequence. And like real life, their relationship changed with a simple moment. Without a car chase, sex scene, or explosion. I saw reality happen and it drew me in. More than that, I was captivated.
Shall We Dance is a modest but inspiring film, made with a beautifully light touch, great characters, and a good sense of humor. It’s a film for people who know the difference between a created and genuine reality.
Holiday Spirit: +4
The Food: Clam Sauce Linguini
If my family had a country, this would be one of our national dishes. The parsley balances the garlic, the linguine holds it all together. It’s easy and warm and it fills the belly with the rib-sticking quality of all good comfort foods but it does so with a light, delicate flavour.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1 cup of chopped parsley
- 2 6.5 oz cans of clams
- 1 box linguine
Make the pasta according to the box. You can start the sauce at the same time you boil the water.
Put the oil and butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Let them melt together, add the garlic. Make sure the heat is up enough for the garlic to sizzle and brown, but watch the oil doesn’t heat too much.
Add the juice from the clams only. Throw in the parsley. Let it simmer for 5 minutes or a little more.
There are three options for the next step.
One – Add the clams. Heat through then remove from heat. Mix the pasta and clams together and eat.
Two – When your pasta is done, retain 1/4 cup of the boiling water and drain the rest. Add the pasta water, the cooked linguine, the sauce, and the clams back into the pasta pot and cover. Wait 10 minutes — if you can. Then eat.
Three – Add the clams. Heat through then remove from heat. Mix the pasta and clams together, wait for it to cool. Put it in the fridge. Eat it the next day when all the flavours are even more developed. No one in the history of the world has ever been able to do this.
It doesn’t often make it to leftover stage but it’s great when it does! It pairs perfectly with garlic bread, a caprese or tossed salad.
Holiday Spirit: +3