Monday, March 21, 2011

Review-- Dance, Subaru!

Time for another ballet movie! This one is a Japanese film called Dance, Subaru! It's based off a manga by the same name. I haven't read the original manga, so I can't compare this film to its original source, but I'll do what I can! Unfortunately, since it is Japanese, I had to watch this on Youtube. You can find it up on Youtube with subtitles, but the quality is really poor. What this means is that I won't have great screencaps for you guys to enjoy this time around, sadly.

The story is about a young girl named Subaru. She and her twin brother love to dance. After sneaking a peek into a dance studio's rehearsal for Swan Lake, they promise each other to become great dancers one day. But unfortunately for her brother, that is never to happen since he develops brain cancer at a very young age. The tumor causes him to forget memories, but Subaru's dancing allows him to remember her even just for a bit.
A sad day comes when her brother doesn't survive his cancer and dies. Subaru is devastated and wanders away during the funeral. She comes across a brightly lit building that calls itself the "Palais Garnier." She enters the building and finds a small dance company. It's hardly professional and tends to specialize more in humorous ballet and stripping than classical ballet, but Subaru finds herself a niche there with the workers.

Years go by and Subaru is working at the Palais Garnier as a dancer. She dances only during select times during the day/week since she is still in high school and the owner doesn't want her working as a stripper. As she is performing, an American named Liz Park takes note of Subaru's dancing. Liz senses a rival and presses Subaru forward a bit in order to strengthen her dancing. 
Subaru and her childhood friend, Mana
Liz isn't the only one, a childhood friend of Subaru's, also a dancer, named Mana, pushes Subaru to audition for a ballet company. When Subaru is accepted into the company, new paths are open for her. She gets a part in Swan Lake and decides to enter a ballet competition. This is where her story really begins.

The story wasn't bad. There were parts where I was really confused, but it wasn't too complicated or too simple. There was enough drama to keep me interested, and overall, it was paced really nicely.

The characters, hmmm... I'm actually not quite sure how to go about this. The characters were fine. Subaru is a bit aloof and almost mysterious. She tends to keep to herself and will only show herself to those she really trusts. Her supporting characters are also admirable in their own ways. I found Liz particularly interesting. She purposely helps Subaru improve so she could have a rival. Interesting....
It's actually the actors that I'm more interested in. These scene-stealers are definitely the actress playing little Subaru, the actor playing little Subaru's brother, and the actress who plays Liz Park.

The kids playing the younger versions of Subaru and her brother are amazing. The amount of emotion the little girl can portray is really good for someone as young as her. Her little cat dance for the brother is also adorable. Their performance left me amazed.
Liz Park and Subaru Miyamoto
Liz Park's actress is also amazing. Why? For one, she's speaking Japanese and it's not her native language; she's Korean. Not only that, but her accent isn't too bad! Second, she learned ballet for this role. Granted, it's not amazing, but it's not bad either. Third, she's a model, not an actress. The fact that she can play a somewhat selfish, genius dancer is pretty amazing to me. I'm impressed and slightly gobsmacked because I can't learn Japanese as well as her in such a short amount of time. She worked really hard for this role, good for her!

Hmm, not much to say. The setting is in Japan, mostly in the Palais Garnier building. Then there's the dance studios and competition. The settings they pick work for the story. 
The costumes I can't really comment on either. They are either street clothes or their performance clothes. The tutus they wore for Swan Lake looked like your traditional tutus so there's not much to really say here.

Hmmm, music. I didn't really notice anything that amazed me, to be honest. Some classical music was used, like the Little Swans' song from Swan Lake and "Bolero." The other music didn't wow me.

The camera was, actually, really good. There were some really nice shots that I wish I could show you guys, but the quality is so bad it ruins it. For instance, in the Palais Garnier, the owner was speaking in her office. A window opening to the stage below showed the dancers performing as the director spoke with an employee. I loved how they did that since it add depth to the scene.

Also, the editing for the dancing was really good. They did a nice job of matching up the scenes with previously performed moves; as well as transitioning from dancer to dancer during the competition scenes. Also, since the actors weren't professionals, the edits between the actors and their body doubles were really nicely shot. The seemingly effortless shots really made this worth watching.

Ballet Presence:
This entire movie is full of ballet. Though there is other drama, it centers itself around Subaru's dancing. Sadly, the dancer playing Subaru isn't a really good dancer, so her dancing scenes are limited, and those we do get you wish you didn't get. 
For instance, there's this scene where Liz and Subaru's pseudo-boyfriend take her to a hip-hop club to loosen up and learn how to dance with a group of people. The result is...painful. Instead of hip-hop, you get this. No joke.
So though ballet was present, it was mainly only passable with the lead. Everyone else did a really nice job otherwise.

Overall Enjoyment:
This movie was actually really well made. I do wish that there was more dancing and that the lead dancer could be a little better of a dancer, but the director clearly knows what he's doing and is incredibly talented. He knows how to get just the right shot and it pays off during the dance sequences. Despite all this, after seeing it once, I feel as if I've seen it all, really, so I probably wouldn't be willing to watch it a second time. 

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