DREAMS ON FIRE
(director/writer: Philippe McKie; cinematographer: James Latimer; editor: Philippe McKie; music: Eiji John Mitsuta; cast: Bambi Naka (Yume),Masahiro Takashima (Boss at hostess club), Saki Okuda (Sakura), Ikuyo Kuroda (Mother), Akaji Maro (Grandather); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Philippe McKie/Michelle LeBlanc: YouTube; 2021-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“It’s on fire.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Philippe McKie is a Canadian expat living in Tokyo for the last decade while working in Tokyo’s fashion industry, as a DJ in clubs and as a filmmaker making shorts. This is his first feature as a director, and it’s on fire.
Since a teenager, the country girl, Yume (Bambi Naka, professional dancer in her acting debut, was formerly the lead dancer on Madonna’s “Rebel Heart Tour”), has dreamed of being a dancer in Tokyo. But she’s opposed by her conservative grandfather (Akaji Maro). So she leaves home for the big city at a young age. Without family support, she must work to support herself, and live in a cramped apartment fit for a sardine. Thereby she gets work just to survive and her first job is an ugly one in a hostess bar. At work she must deal with both lecherous businessmen customers and an unscrupulous asshole boss (Masahiro Takashima).
Her path takes her to some rough spots in Tokyo’s underground and subculture scenes. It was shot in some well-known venues as the legendary S&M bar Black Rose, Shibuya’s illustrious nightclub WOMB and many other known fettish clubs. Other jobs after the hostess one include being a go-go dancer at a seedy nightclub.
The performance by Naka was mesmerizing, and even if the film went on too long it still held my interest. The cinematography was mind-blowing, the choreography was hot and the music from IC3PEAK, S.P.Y, Hospital Records, and Shogun Audio was electric. It had a unique look, one that was different and more intriguing than most other dance stories of this ilk, and her touching story was played out in this corrupting neon-lit world of broken dreams.
The actors play themselves, giving the film a dazzling look of reality. It seems a lot like the American dancer film set in Las Vegas, Showgirls (1995), by Paul Verhoeven–a film I initially hated by liked it more when I saw it again years later. Anyhow, I enjoyed this one much more.
REVIEWED ON 8/31/2021 GRADE: B+