by Greg Muskewitz
In a prefatory opening, a man named Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is with his wife in her dying moments, right before their son arrives with a get-well diorama.Seven years later, they live alone with the exception of a small pup and a live-out maid who cooks. Aoyama works in Japan’s entertainment industry, and his now-teenage son Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) still hasn’t outgrown his obsession of dinosaurs and artifacts, and is more interested that than in girls. Shigehiko feels that his father is unhappy, and without a companion it has excelled his aging, so he recommends that his father gets remarried or at least starts dating again. Aoyama confides in one of his confreres what his son suggested, so the colleague ups the son’s suggestion by assuming the role of matchmaker: While holding an audition for an upcoming project, Aoyama will be responsible for picking out a number of women who responded to the call (the commercial tells actress-hopefuls that “Hepburn and Julia Roberts led regular lives before they became heroines”) and then screen them during the audition process as to whom he may want to pursue afterwards. Even before the interviews in front of the camera, Aoyama has set his sights on the sublime and humbled Asami (Eihi Shiina, always — though antithetically — dressed in angelic white), simply from reading her application. Things work exactly the way the friend had planned, and soon the two are seeing each other, even though Asami realizes she probably will not get the part. They dine out, discuss their lives and seem to be headed in a positive direction. Aoyama’s friend strangely doesn’t like Asami and recommends that he looks elsewhere, but outside of those baseless premonitions, everything is in order. And then, The Weekend: Aoyama takes her away where he plans to propose to her; instead of going out like planned, Asami wants him to see her body, to examine her, to love no one but her. They go to bed together, and with the flip of the sheets, everything is no longer as it was. When he wakes up, she’s gone — not to be found anywhere, not even once he has returned home. Days pass, and Aoyama sets out to find her, learning frightening and horrid things at each step, and becoming less and less sure of what is going on around her.
"Not for the average panty-waist!"
With Audition, you’re getting more than you bargained for; Takashi Miike withholds nothing that could potentially freak the audience out in terms of psychological warfare and pure insanity. The film is carefully but statically shot, making use of calm framing techniques, a method that nearly renders the audience unable to budge from their seats. Hideo Yamamoto’s compositions are so placed and strictly adhered to, that on the downside, sometimes it gives the film an amateur feeling insofar as Miike was too afraid to move his camera around. But with a story that develops like this, keeping you on the edge of your seat and restlessly breathing, it is best to paralyze your viewers much like the characters themselves. Yamamoto also over-exposes the lighting, but that too has a benefit, where often in dreams or nightmares moreover, when you cannot take control, light can be blinding and unmanageable. (At least within my own nightmares!) Inasmuch as the nightmare is what all of the sadism and ritualized torture is hinted at being, as I often find that a cheat in films, there is never any conclusive evidence that helps us one way or the other with Audition. It offers some warped and deformed explanations, but the gruesome, terrifying and surreal nature that incoherent dreams and nightmares have the ability to put forth in reality are this film’s major asset. By inconclusively playing it as a dream and/or the real thing, the film attains a cogent manipulation that rightly leaves one in a flustered state of satiety upon the dénouement. The phantasmagoric apex is one of the most ineffaceable in recent memory, painful to watch, truly disturbing, ghastly and masterfully executed. Miike handles the suspenseful and horrific scenarios with ease and simplicity and makes mountains out of molehills with what he has been given. He is also extremely lucky to have the two lead actors so efficaciously employed, falling somewhere within the realm of perfection. (Not all the way, but so darn close to it, that I might as well give Miike the benefit of the doubt.) Ishibashi could have easily fallen into the predicament of going over-the-top and exaggerating his character, or even making him an unlikable louche. But he doesn’t, adding to the strength of the character, and never does his inquisitivity make him seem too naïve or numbskullish. Shiina, as the perverse and malicious freak, is extremely subtle and understated in a gloryless yet celebratory role. Shiina’s natural epipetalous pulchritude provides the perfect façade to foster the phantasmagoria that hides beneath the surface of her character and allows more shock to arise from the fact that her visage is that of a harmless angel. Looks can be deceiving! Long after Audition’s cinematic torture is over, the experience remaining haunting and there is no doubt that it contains some of the most gruesome, amaranthine images blazed and singed into the screen in recent memory. Not recommended for the average panty-waist.
With Jun Kunimura, Ren Osugi, Renji Ishibashi and Akaya Izumi. From the novel by Ryu Murakami.[Absolutely to be seen.]
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5538&reviewer=172
originally posted: 09/29/01 01:11:16