Tuesday, 14 July 2009

“Shall We Dance” – Peter Chelsom’s 2004 Movie. A Review of the 2008 BLU RAY Reissue.

“…. It’s Quite Possible We Could Find Your Husband Knee Deep In Potpourri…It’s Quiet Possible…But Unlikely…”

Whenever I'm asked by friends for a movie to lift up a dreary Monday evening after a tough day at the job, I reach for "Shall We Dance".
They then look at the outer sleeve with sneering suspicion, shake their heads and check my pulse.
Richard Gere and J-Lo! Ballroom Dancing!! Are you mad!!!
But they always come back a few days later saying how much they genuinely loved it...

Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere play Beverly and John Clark who are happily married and living in their affluent suburban mansion. They've a well-balanced life with an equally well-balanced daughter and all seems to be in order. But his job as a Chicago Estate Lawyer dealing with other people's wills has become tedious and their same-old existence at home quietly stagnant. One evening heading home after work on the overhead L train, John looks up into "Miss Mitzi's Dancing School" and sees a beautiful woman standing at the window (Jennifer Lopez). Several evenings and sightings later, he finally gets off the train, goes in and unwittingly enrols in Ballroom Dancing classes - and of course everything changes...

Peter Chelsom's 2004 remake of the 1996 Japanese film "Shall We Dansu?" is as lovely as film gets (pictured in English above) - and its transition to BLU RAY is a real triumph.

The picture is GLORIOUS throughout - far better than the DVD - beautifully framed by cinematographer John De Borman. There are so many scenes now where the detail hits you - the texture of his coat on the train home - the look of the wet streets outside the studio - his tie as he stands by the fridge in his perfect kitchen, the scuffed and scratched wooden floorboards of the Mitzi's studio - Stanley Tucci's character Link wiping false tan off his face (his Latin lothario look) as he discusses his secret passion for the Rumba and Tango with work colleague John - it 'all' looks so clear.

As with all great films, there's a combination of things that make it work. First up is the fabulous support cast who very nearly steal the film from the leads - Stanley Tucci and Lisa Ann Walter in particular are like Bette Midler and husband - ball-breakingly funny, ratty with each other, but ultimately human and touching. There's the huge but lovable Omar trying to lose a few pounds to propose to his girlfriend (Omar Miller from 8 Mile), the macho and deceptively deep Chic played brilliantly by Bobby Cannavale (from The Station Agent) who wants to score with women (or so he thinks) - Susan Sarandon admirably downplaying the acting hysterics as John's suspicious wife who then hires Richard Jenkins (the dead father in Six Feet Under) and Nick Cannon to investigate...and on it goes to revelations none of them were expecting...

John O'Connell did the choreography (Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge) with Richard Gere admirably putting in 4 months of intensive training to get it right. Then there's the score by John Altman during the dance numbers which is such great fun - itself sided by Gabriel Yared's beautiful piano refrain infusing so many of the quieter scenes with an old-school romance and class. And of course the movie's trump-card - the elegant, sexy and sleek Jennifer Lopez who's in her element as Paulina the spurned Ballroom champion. She wins praise from her co-cast and director - and rightly so.

The Special Features on the BLU RAY are:
1. Audio commentary by the Director Peter Chelsom
2. Deleted Scenes (About 17 Minutes) With Commentary by Peter Chelsom
3. Behind The Scenes Of "Shall We Dance" - interviews with all the cast, director, producers etc
4. Beginners Ballroom
5. The Music Of (John Altman and Gabriel Yared who did the principal score; Mya's version of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and The Pussycat Dolls update of Dean Martin's "Sway" including behind the scenes at the video shoot and interviews with Mya and Nicole Kea

Like "The Full Monty", "Sleepless In Seattle" or "When Harry Met Sally" - "Shall We Dance" is a bit of a modern day gem. Ok it won't make the top 50 best films every made - but it will talcum powder its way into your heart and stay there. And on BLU RAY it's a winner.


PS: Peter Chelsom has made other really great films worth checking out - "Hear My Song", "The Mighty", "Serendipity" and the wonderfully quirky "Funny Bones" which is set in his hometown of Blackpool in coastal England

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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