Koji Yakusyo first caught my eye as a superb actor in the Japanese classic film, Shall We Dance? (1996) years back, followed which I was surprised – or maybe not - to see him again in Lost Paradise (1997). The unforgettable portrayal in both, was of a late fortyish Japanese salaried man, toiling for the mortgage of his family house, feeling all struck and depressed in life till he meets with a new passion: the former, ballroom dancing, the latter, an unhappily married woman in her 30s; both affair of the heart but none less passionate.
So it was on a sentimental note that I bought the VCD for Shall We Dance? at HMW, opting for reminiscing today. The strong jaw line, the deep-seated eyes and the elegant postures of Waltz; basically he embodies all the charm of a typical Japanese gentleman.
Yip there was a time when Shall We Dance? touched and inspired me to even consider learning to dance. It’s funny that the one scene struck in my mind, has Mr Sugiyama alone spinning to the astonishment of two young private investigators; his handsome face hardly noticeable in the darkness of an empty ground under a bridge. Through the microscopic scrutiny of ballroom dancing, the director underlines the listless state of the modern Japanese social and family lives. There was a call for the men to let their hair down, to come out to “dance” then.
With me much younger, Lost Paradise, also starring the evergreen Hitomi Kuroki, was a shocker. Explicit sex scenes aside, their final embrace in suicide – Koji even has a daughter about to marry in this one – for a love crucified by other, cannot be more affecting. I still remember lucidly the crimson glow on their faces as two adults in love for the first time, hand in hand, walking under the neon lights on the street.
Love, in its purest form, speaks of the deepest lust and sacrifice in body and spirit, yet such is its vulnerability, conflicts in many ways with our society. The film has schooled me on the non-existence of unconditional love literally. We are all bound by obligation, sometime even sub-consciously, to our family, traditions and social values.