A few days ago, if someone had told me that I would become utterly enthralled with a story about a girl who abandons everything to go become a dancer in the big city I would have laughed at you. Seriously I just cannot get into the tale of the all-American Girl who just wants to make it in the dance scene, it has been done to death and in recent years it has become more and more unrealistic. I guess that is why this uniquely Japanese take on the story has me hooked.
Starring Bambi Naka, one of Japan’s most famous dancers, Dreams on Fire tells a more realistic tale of success and what it takes to make it in the world. Bambi plays Yume a girl who flees her small home town after father kicks her out for wanting to be a dancer. She ends up in Tokyo and faces many harsh realities of life there, getting a job in Tokyo’s red-light district, sleeping in a tiny cramped space, having zero friends, with only her talent, skill and sheer determination to pull her through.
One big difference between this and the American dance movies that have come before is that Dreams on Fire focuses heavily on the dancer’s raw skill. It uses no tricks of the camera; it just focuses on the performers. Every dancer that appears in this film flows effortlessly and honestly makes me a little jealous because I myself was born with two left feet. Bambi Naka playing the lead gets most of the attention and she is magnificent, truly a real joy to watch. I am shocked that this is her first lead role, I understand that she is a dancer by trade but her performance is incredibly strong, while dancing she has a fire in her but when playing the character, she is humble, timid yet also determined and strong.
As for every other performer they are fantastic, so often in these pictures people devolve into caricatures that are unrealistic, in Dreams on Fire everyone behaves like a regular human. Though for the most part our focus will always be on Yume.
Director Philippe McKie had produced a gorgeous film and this is more than the dance sequences, it is everything. If you have never been to Tokyo it is hard to describe. It is this vibrant mix of old and new, tiny and grand, neon and subdued. Tokyo has some of the most unique architecture in the world and I am not talking about the big giant buildings, but just its general layout and the little things, Philippe Mckie makes perfect use of this in crafting this film.
Beyond the gorgeous visuals you have to ask yourself what would a dance movie be without a banging soundtrack?
And on this front Dreams on Fire does not disappoint. The music was amazing and I woke up this morning thinking to myself – “I need to get that somehow”
One final note that I will say in praise of this story is how it takes a good hard look at sexism in Japan, the role of family in Japan and also living conditions in the bigger city too. These are not uniquely Japanese problems, but if you know anything about Japan you will know that Japan has distinctive twists on them.
Dreams on Fire is about working towards your goal no matter what. There are never any huge setbacks or even a big dance number that changes everything, instead the film takes a more realistic approach and see’s someone make small incremental steps forward down the path to their dreams and I just love that. For the last twelve months I have been forced to live through dreams, it is nice to see something more realistic. I highly recommend this movie hope and you all enjoy it as much as I have.
If you want to see Dreams on Fire then just head over to the Glasgow Film Festival Site and check it out.