Following the international renown of his first film "Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald" (Berlin Film Festival, Special Mention 1998) and the domestic success of "All About My House" (1M admissions, 2001) , Koki Mitani, Japan's foremost playwright and screenwriter, makes his third foray into directing with
"Suite Dreams". Mitani, a self-confessed Billy Wilder aficionado, finds inspiration this time in the gorgeously-observed 1932 MGM classic, "Grand Hotel".
Mitani's reputation as Japan's Neil Simon is amply proven in this grand farce set in the august luxury of the "Hotel Avanti". Events unfold in real-time as frantic preparations fill the remaining two hours before a fabulous New Year's Party that will confirm the hotel's primacy on the social calendar. Reminiscent of Grand Hotel's high-octane line up of Garbo, Barrymore and Crawford, a veritable who's-who of Japanese cinematic talent forms the ensemble cast whose hopes, dreams not to mention reputations are staked on the success of the event.
Box office dynamo, Koji Yakusho (familiar in the West for "Shall We Dance?", Cannes-award winning, "The Eel" and the long-awaited "Memoirs of a Geisha") leads the pack as one of a pair of mismatched and dueling Deputy Managers. His courteous and gentlemanly character is our guide through the ensuing tribulations as he tries to maintain calm and placate the increasingly oddball General Manager.
As if staff politics and preparations for the party alone were not enough to deal with, his professional headaches worsen when his ex-wife turns up on the arm of a renowned academic leading a convention of deer specialists. But before the night is out, this domestic issue will pale in comparison to other successive problems which threaten further catastrophe. Not only does a scandal-stricken politician hole up in the hotel pursued by the entire press corps but a famous crooner chooses this night to contemplate a highly-visible suicide.
In time-honored tradition, deception piles on top of misunderstanding as nine different layers of story are interwoven in a grand tapestry of the human condition. The audience is uniquely privy to the host of mistaken identities and inevitable subterfuge but just when it seems all might spin out of control, we feel the sure hand of a consummate playwright guiding us. All the threads are gathered and everything works out for the best. Even the ventriloquist's fugitive duck plays a part in bringing about the final grand, redemption.
Combining superb social satire with exquisite plotting, pace and characterization, "Suite Dreams" is a movie of universal appeal that is sure to find a discerning audience well beyond its native Japan.