Despite what the film reveals us at the end, the Hiroshima Daiichi Theater did not close in 2019, but in June 2021. The main reason for this two-year extension was nothing other than Hideyuki Tokigawa’s film about this place and its owner. Moreover, knowing that the theatre did not immediately close after the film was released ultimately proves the truth the film presents about the theatre’s illustrious owner.
Hiroshima. Kinoshita (Masaya Kato) is coordinating the preparation for one final show before his strip club, Hiroshima First theatre, irremediably closes its doors. For his last show, he has invited some top performers like Yoko (Yoko Yazawa). Yet, he is, inexplicitly, attracted by a blond girl named Melody (Izumi Okamura).
Shintaro (Atsuhiro Inukai) who, despite being separated for two years, cannot forget his lost love Nagisa (-) and to work-through his break-up and undo it from its painful and haunting character. One night, while drinking his pain away with tequila in a local bar, a young free-spirited girl (Izumi Okamura) appears in front him and starts to dance to ease some of his pain. The barman tells him that she might be a stripper. He sets of to a strip bar in an attempt to find.
Dancing In Her Dreams as a narrative is both a character study of Kinoshita as well as a love-letter to the art of the stripping. The narrative unfolds itself by intertwining and juxta-positioning the present and the past, Kinoshita and Shintaro. In fact, it is the elegant and ‘mirroring’ play between the past and the present that allows both the character study of Shintaro Kinoshita – yes, they are one and the same person – and the celebration of the art of stripping to become so engaging and touching.
From Shintaro‘s signifiers, it is evident that Nagisa plunged the knife into his heart that tears it apart and makes invisible blood trickles down his skin. The sudden apparitions of Nagisa do not only echo the fact that he cannot forget her and that his desire remains firmly attached to her as goal, but underline that he remains driven by a vein hope to encounter Nagisa in order to persuade her to remove the bloody knife of separation and re-establish their bond of romance.
How can Shintaro get out of this subjective deadlock? Quite simply, by encountering someone who can seize his desire and give it a new goal. Such thing happens when Shintaro sees the girl he encountered at the bar dancing erotically on stage in the strip-club. He finds in Sara’s elegant moving body the phallic sparkle that entraps his desire and removes the knife that has hampered his subjective presence since his dramatic break-up. That this encounter is with something phallic in the body of Sara is underlined by Shintaro’s confusion about what exactly moved him in her dance and entrapped his desire.
Kinoshita, for that matter, is also marked by a subjective emptiness – an emptiness at the level of his desire that reverberates within his strip-club. This emptiness is one of the main reasons why he avoids to watch his own strippers. The lack of desire is also echoed in his subjective position of waiting on someone who has never returned. As a matter of fact, it is because he remains waiting, harbouring a vein hope that the absence that marks him will be resolved, that stops him closing and giving up his theatre (Narra-note 1).
When Melody appears in front of him, he is not simply reminded of Sara, the girl that allowed him to break free from his subjective stalemate, but confronted with the very absence that marks his subjectivity, with the paring knife that remains stuck in his heart. What he encounters in her is, in other words, nothing but the very presence of Sara’s absence that, as subject, emptied him. The spectator quickly is led to wonder whether Melody is a real presence or merely a figment of Kinoshita’s imagination, a visualisation of what he has, all this time, waited for. Yet, whether she is real or not, can she grant Kinoshita the solution to his subjective deadlock and uncover for him what has given his life, all this time, its meaning?
Dancing In Her Dreams also explores what the function of a strip club is. Rather than being a place that aims to directly satisfying men’s thirst for erotica, it is space where, by installing a treacherous and frail distance, the naked sensual body can become an highly erotic image that spurns on sexual fantasies of male subjects. It is, in other words, by offering the erotic moving female body as temporary fuel for the male spectator’s sexual phantasmatic world that the strip club was able to be profitable. The downfall of the strip-industry lies in the fact that with the advent of online pornography is became very easy to find a multitude of female bodies to ravish in one’s fantasy.
Moreover, Tokigawa also touches upon the fact that those female subjects, who grant their body to the phantasmatic impulse of men, often fall victim to financial exploitation and societal preconceptions. It is, in a certain way, because they make themselves into an sexual object for the male Other that they invite this male other to reduce the subject to an object to manipulate for their own gain.
Tokigawa brings Dancing in Her Dreams visually to life with a rich dynamism – crude and fluid. This reliance on dynamism does not only give certain sequences their pleasant flow, but also allows the elegant beauty of the moving female body to become accentuated and a sensual tension to arise from the play with dynamism as such (Music-note 1). While static moments are, of course present in his composition, these moments are quite often ‘disturbed’ by a tinge of dynamism.
The elegance that marks the framing of the strip-dances as well as the musical accompaniment that adorns the conversations venturing in what strip is all about infuse a sense of nostalgia into the narrative. Tokigawa’s work is not only driven by a deep respect for the art of strip dancing, but a veritable tribute to this iconic cultural element that, due to societal changes at the level of erotic consumption, has been forced to disappear. The compositional elegance as well as the music allow Dancing in Her Dreams to become a very touching romance narrative.
Dancing In Her Dreams is a wonderful experience that does not only present a touching exploration of the pain of longing but also functions as an exquisite and elegant celebration of the art of stripping. Dancing In Her Dreams hits all the beats to be a narrative that can renew the appreciation for the art of the dancing female naked body by both male and female subjects.
Narra-note 1: For Kinoshita, closing the theatre means giving up his vein hope that his beloved Sara will return.
Music-note 1: The sensual tension is also partly function of the musical decoration that adorns certain dynamic moments in the narrative.