Dreams for Sale

(Japan, 2012)
New York Premiere
Co-Presentation with JAPAN CUTS
137 minutes, 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by: Miwa Nishikawa
Starring: Satoshi Oshita, Kei Saito, Masoa Teshima, Takahiro Hirao

Satoko (Takako Matsu , whose follow-up performance to Confessions is a composed, masterful send-up of Japanese female stoicism) and Kanya (Sadao Abe) find themselves in dire straits when their small izakaya (Japanese version of a bistro) burns to the ground. Strapped for cash and desperate to get back on track, they take odd jobs at other restaurants and decide to get married—but not to each other! Despite his “average Joe” rugged looks, Kanya has a disconcerting ability to romance women that goes beyond providing good customer service. It’s a skill that turns out to be an unorthodox but invaluable source of income as they undertake a serial marriage scam.

With Satoko along for the ride and shrewdly assisting with finding potential marks they begin promising matrimony to lonely ladies (including a disgruntled office worker (Rena Tanaka), an Olympic bodybuilder, a spirited prostitute, and a hardworking single mom) before taking all of their money and running off. As Kanya and Satoko make their way through a growing number of love-starved women, mending and re-breaking hearts as they go, their deceptive scheme begins to take a toll on their own marriage and their very souls. Before long, the purloining pair are back in the money and back in business, but they both have to ask themselves: at what cost?

Writer-director Miwa Nishikawa maintains a light-toned, jaunty touch throughout the film, even as the moral stakes continue to rise higher and higher. Her steady, candid camera captures both the pathos and plight of her characters. She is aided tremendously by a fabulous cast, especially Matsu (who’s gone a long way from her pop sensation days) and Abe in lead performances of rare depth and rage. Sympathetic as they are, they never let the audience forget about the duplicity of their actions. Their backdrop is despair, but their foreground lies and frauds have the silvery zest of comedy—and there are laughs, to be sure… if you can laugh at love. What’s fresh and rousing in DREAMS is Nishikawa’s sure-handed wielding of the tension between the bleak and the blithe, the prime source of her movie’s strength, sustained to the end, as she explores questions seldom asked: what desperate people will do to regain what they have lost? how far will they go?

Saturday July 13, 3:45PM Japan Society Buy Tickets