This is the most wonderful movie ever made.

Well, okay, that is perhaps a somewhat subjective statement.

To clarify, I'm not talking about the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers flick, but the 1997 Japanese movie of the same name. It concerns a Japanese salaryman, Sugiyama (played by Koji Yakusho) who sees a beautiful girl in the window of a little ballroom dance studio on his way home from work.

He eventually bumbles into the studio and winds up taking lessons, with the idea of eventually getting to dance with the girl, Mai (played by Tamiyo Kusakari). His wife eventually gets suspicious (he's staying out late and coming home smelling of perfume) and the plot plays out from there.

With charismatic supporting characters that would seem overdone in America, but (trust me) are perfectly believable in Japan, relaxed pacing, and a lovely mix of understated comedy and wistful romance, "Shall We Dance?" is the sort of movie that will cheer you up if you're in the depths of despair and temper your good mood with a dose of subtle melancholy.

This movie won just about every applicable award in its country of origin, and the nearly-universal comment that Japanese people have regarding it is that it perfectly portrays the Japanese spirit, what it feels like to be Japanese.

Writer/Director Masayuki Suo has created a masterpiece. Rent it. Buy it. Love it.

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