Dreams for Sale (Japan: Yume uru futari), 2012.
Written and Directed by Miwa Nishikawa.
Starring Teruyuki Kagawa, Yûsuke Iseya and Takako Matsu.
Married couple Kanya and Satoko are left devastated when their izakaya restaurant burns to the ground. Kanya’s continuous drunken stupor and rejection of his wife’s optimism leads to a drunken one-night stand. Initially angry, Satoko soon sees in Kanya’s betrayal a means to finance their dream of a new restaurant.
Dreams for Sale concludes the end of a three year absence from filmmaking for Japanese director Miwa Nishikawa. A celebrated filmmaker within contemporary Japanese cinema, her 2009 nomination for a Naoki Literature award set her aside as an accomplished storyteller across narrative mediums. Dreams for Sale is a tale of marriage fraud, though Nishikawa has admitted that it is a fictionalised account of the subject.
Perhaps best known for her performance of a vengeful school teacher in 2009’s Confessions, Japanese music star and actress Takako Matsu delivers a particularly memorable performance that is full of subtle nuance. One of the central protagonists, she is a joy to watch; humorous and warm with that beaming smile, she also plays the betrayed woman without excessive melodrama, instead exhibiting a quiet and almost humorous annoyance with her husband, as she quietly rebukes his later accusations. To attempt to describe her character is to do Matsu’s performance an injustice. Rather it is a performance that needs to be experienced; words insufficient.
Dreams for Sale is one of those films which left me with me an odd feeling, an impression that I should have liked it more than I did. One of the problematic aspects of the film is that Nishikawa’s tale of marriage fraud is a drawn out affair, and whilst film is a medium in which this type of expansive story or world can be achieved effectively, I couldn’t help but feel that it may have been better suited to the written word. The film’s premise of a couple taking the dreams of vulnerable women and exploiting them to finance their new restaurant is a fine premise, and Nishikawa effectively weaves together the comedy, sometimes a black humour with the darker aspects of the story. Between the film’s memorable scenes I couldn’t help but feel a little as though I were waiting for that next memorable moment. This is true of most films and is not exclusive to Dreams for Sale. Robert Rodriguez once said that when you re-watch a film, you do so for certain moments. Whilst this is true, transition between such moments is crucial, and that is where Dreams for Sale struggles.
It remains an interesting and ambitious take on trust and sincerity, but more than it is an amusingly dark tale of what people will do to attain their dreams financially, or through sacrificing apart of themselves. The main protagonists’ journey from an affectionate and loyal couple, to resentful lovers, tied to one another through their exploitation of ‘dreams for sale’ is worth the watch despite the film’s inherent struggles. Nishikawa’s cinematography demands to be noticed, the way her camera lingers in moments upon her protagonists’ faces, and knowing they are watching the raging fire, we stare face to face, us into their world, they into ours; an elongated moment in which we experience storytelling through silent facial expression. This may be where Nishikawa excels, but in Dreams for Sale she is gifted one of the most memorable performances of recent times by Matsu, softening the disappointment of the film’s narrative struggles.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Paul Risker is a freelance writer and contributor to Flickering Myth, Scream The Horror Magazine and The London Film Review.