×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dreams for Sale

Nipponese helmer-scribe Miwa Nishikawa continues to explore themes of deceit with her fourth film, "Dreams for Sale," a provocative portrait of a husband and wife who scam women desperate for love.

With:
With: Takako Matsu, Sadawo Abe, Lena Tanaka, Sawa Suzuki, Yuka Ebara, Tae Kimura, Yusuke Iseya, Tsurube Shofukutei, Teruyuki Kagawa. By Maggie Lee

Nipponese helmer-scribe Miwa Nishikawa continues to explore themes of deceit with her fourth film, “Dreams for Sale,” a provocative portrait of a husband and wife who scam women desperate for love. Lacking the tightly wound suspense of her her 2006 picture “Sway” or the droll moral ambivalence of 2009’s “Dear Doctor,” this circuitous yarn is precariously held together by coolly disturbing character studies and a nuanced rendition of female calculation by Takako Matsu (“Confessions”). Straining to be a dramedy yet steeped in cynicism and pathos, pic reps a bitter pill for mainstream auds but suits arthouse, ancillary and fest play.

In Miyamae, a commuter district near Tokyo, Kanya Ichizawa (Sadawo Abe) and wife Satoko (Takako Matsu) celebrate the fifth anniversary of their restaurant, only to see it burn to ashes. Satomi keeps her chin up while slaving away at a grungy ramen shop, while Kanya falls into a funk. Kanya lucks out when a one-night stand with regular customer Reiko (Sawa Suzuki) results in a windfall; soon the couple is fleecing women susceptible to Kanya’s puppy-dog charm. Their first victim is prim Satsuki (Lena Tanaka), cracking under family pressure to marry.

Up to this point, the drama is entirely absorbing as it focuses intently on its protags’ misfortunes. Nevertheless, with each target, from painfully diffident Olympic weightlifter Hitomi (Yuka Ebara) to cash-strapped prostitute Kana (Tamae Ando) to gentle divorcee Takiko (Tae Kimura), Kanya and Satoko’s unscrupulous behavior becomes more alarming and grueling to watch.

One senses Nishikawa’s scorn for the scammers, but not always her sympathy for the scammed. The anecdotal structure doesn’t quicken the film’s momentum, and the respectable supporting thesps, plus star cameos, make interesting but not lasting impressions. Nevertheless, the helmer’s clinical anatomy of a crumbling marriage is refreshing in its sexual openness.

Satoko’s characterization is a masterful mockery of Japanese female stoicism taken to extremes; although her controlling nature seems well-intentioned initially, she gradually discloses underlying selfishness and schadenfreude. Matsu, whose career as a national sweetheart rivals that of Sayori Yoshinaga in the ’60s, goes even further than she did in “Confessions” to subvert her image of idealized femininity, flaring up like a vicious animal before just as quickly regaining her silky composure.

From the decisive opening scene in which his distraction and clumsiness cause the restaurant fire, Kanya’s unlikely and reluctant Don Juan, played unflatteringly with a surfeit of weak will and pigheadedness by Abe, may have trouble convincing Western auds and, indeed, most male viewers. But the character’s inadequacies only reinforce how vulnerable women can be whenever anyone dangles the illusion of love, as conveyed by the Japanese title, which translates as “Dream-vending Duo.”

Tech credits are pro. Keiko Mitsumatsu’s production design re-creates the culture of Tokyo’s izakaya (equivalent to bistros), evoking an atmosphere conducive to suggestive interactions between lovelorn strangers. A light, jazzy score softens the satirical venom.

Dreams for Sale

Japan

Production: An Asmik Ace Entertainment release of a Bandai Visual Co. Office Shirous, Yomiuri Telecasting, Asmik Ace Entertainment, Bungeishunju, Dentsu, Eisei Gekijo Co., Papado, Yahoo Japan, Ennet presentation of a Office Shirous production. (International sales: Asmik Ace Entertainment, Tokyo.) Produced by Shiro Sasaki. Executive producers, Hiroko Matsuda, Kosuke Oshida, Hiroyuki Fujikado, Asako Nishikawa, Kayo Yoshida. Directed, written by Miwa Nishikawa, based on her story.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Katsumi Yanagijima; editor, Ryuji Miyajima; music, More Rhythm; production designer, Keiko Mitsumatsu; costume designer, Miwako Kobayashi; sound (Dolby SR), Mitsugu Shiratori; visual effects supervisor, Kentaro Nishio; line producer, Kosuke Oshide; assistant director, Shinji Kuma. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 10, 2012. (Also in Vancouver Film Festival.) Running time: 136 MIN.

Cast: With: Takako Matsu, Sadawo Abe, Lena Tanaka, Sawa Suzuki, Yuka Ebara, Tae Kimura, Yusuke Iseya, Tsurube Shofukutei, Teruyuki Kagawa. By Maggie Lee

More Scene

  • Jordan Peele'Us' film premiere, Arrivals, New

    Jordan Peele Explains the Meaning Behind the 'Us' Michael Jackson Reference

    Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us” is filled with pop culture references, from “Jaws” to “Goonies.” But the most divisive might be right in his opening sequence. Warning, minor spoilers ahead. The movie about a couple (played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) and their children being hunted and brutalized by a mysterious family that looks just [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Nick Offerman Amy Poehler

    'Parks and Recreation' Cast Talks Possibility of a Revival at 10th Anniversary Reunion

    For one night, Hollywood felt a little like Pawnee. The cast of NBC’s hit comedy “Parks and Recreation” reunited at PaleyFest on Thursday in honor of the show’s 10th anniversary. The whole Pawnee gang showed up: Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, Retta, and Jim [...]

  • Andy CohenThe Shops and Restaurants at

    Andy Cohen to Receive Vito Russo Award at GLAAD Media Awards

    Mazel, Andy Cohen! Bravo’s late-night talk show host is set to receive the Vito Russo Award at the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards on May 4 in New York City. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute at Disney Hall Film Review: 'Shazam!' Sarah Jessica Parker will present him with the [...]

  • Variety TV Summit Europe

    Variety TV Summit Europe Coming to London on June 13

    Variety’s TV Summit Europe will coincide with London Tech Week this year, returning to the city on June 13. The international conference will be held at the Royal Lancaster and is co-produced by global events company Informa’s KNect365 division, the world’s largest business-to-business organizer. The one-day summit will focus on the intersection of content and [...]

  • David Furnish, Bryce Dallas Howard, Taron

    'Rocketman': Paramount Previews Footage of Elton John Biopic

    “Rocketman” is ready for lift off. Paramount Pictures threw a cocktail party Monday night to preview 15 minutes of the upcoming Elton John biopic, set for release on May 31, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the legendary rock club where John made his U.S. debut nearly 50 years ago. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content