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Overall Rating
4.34

Awesome47.89%
Worth A Look: 43.66%
Average: 2.82%
Pretty Bad: 5.63%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 41 user ratings



Audition
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by Todd LaPlace

"Out out damn spot!"
4 stars

At the Rotterdam Film Festival screening of “Audition,” there were a record number of walkouts. At the Swiss premiere of the film, one viewer actually passed out and had to be taken to the hospital. Think this is an exaggeration? The film isn’t that bad. It’s a cute little romance between a middle-aged widower and a sweet young girl. The finale, however, well, that’s a different story. Let’s just say this is considerably darker than your average “cute” Kate Hudson movie. Considerably better too.

To tweak one of my favorite quotes: There is terror, and then there’s terror, and then there’s “Audition.” As the only movie to make my horror-obsessed friend physically ill, “Audition” is something of an enigma. Made by Japanese cult figure Takashi Miike in the late ’90s, the film slowly found a following, largely based on the third act, when the switch is flipped and your haunting nightmares begin. And before you think you think, “I’ve seen ‘Scream,’ so I can handle this,” know that it didn’t make No. 11 on Bravo’s list of the scariest movie moments for nothing.

But I use the word enigma not because of the final sequence alone, but rather for how drastic the flip is. In the traditional Hollywood horror structure, the prologue usually sets up the horror (think Drew Barrymore’s Casey in “Scream,” or Judith Myers in “Halloween”), and the first act backs off, building the tension and characterization until characters start dropping like flies. Obviously, Miike isn’t Hollywood, and he’s not about to let us all off so easy. In an ideal situation, you wouldn’t have read the last two paragraphs and you wouldn’t have seen the American advertising covered in bloody wires and Asami (Eihi Shiina) brandishing syringes. You wouldn’t know there was a twist. You wouldn’t know it was a horror finale. You wouldn’t know anything (although in reality, I would recommend this approach. I swear the ending is that brutal).

Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is a pathetic widowed father of one. Seven years after his wife’s slow death and Aoyama is still a dismal shell of a man. Both his teenage son and best friend think he needs to start meeting women again, but the movie executive has fallen into a rut. Even the woman at his office that practically throws herself at him doesn’t stir anything in him, so his friend insists he hold auditions for a future wife. The confusing part is most of these scenes (except for the opening death) play out more like a soft romantic comedy than a horror movie. The piano music is light and peppy, and the auditions feature 30 women in various states of absurdity. But the only one that catches his attention is the prim Asami, a shy 24 year old with a mature, but tragic, story. The characteristic that catches Aoyama’s attention is her description of recognizing the end of her ballet career: “It was like accepting death.” Not quite Nora Ephron, but maybe this is Miike’s idea of romance.

But, of course, we know everything isn’t quite what it seems. Despite his friend’s urging to back off the beauty, Aoyama throws himself into a courtship and falls in love. She’s so cute and sweet, than when we see her awaiting his phone call at her apartment, we don’t really know anything’s wrong. Then the phone rings. And she smiles. And the large sack on the floor begins writhing around in terror. Obviously this girl isn’t playing with a full deck, and Miike masterfully slowly begins pulling away her shiny veneer. Those initial soft shots of her begin getting more violent and she starts sliding further into dark spaces. We don’t really know what’s in the sack, but we do learn his mysterious past is littered with a few more gruesome stories than the average girlfriends. I’ll bet Tom Hanks never had to hear about Meg Ryan’s missing and dismembered bosses and colleagues.

Watching “Audition,” I wasn’t so much reminded of “Halloween,” “Friday the Thirteenth” or even the other cult J-Horror movies like “Ringu” or “Ju-on.” Instead I was reminded of a small French film called “Fat Girl.” Director Catherine Breillat, who is well known for her disturbing sex movies, crafted this little story of an oversexed teen girl and her horny undersexed younger sister. Both had these ideal views of sex and love, which were largely shattered by the end of the film. Then, about ten minutes before the end of the movie, this random, primal violence explodes this story. It was honestly the most disturbing cinematic sequence I had ever seen…until “Audition.”

Miike’s movie, which seems to be an unconventional romance that’s actually hiding a subtext of unbalanced gender relations — despite Aoyama’s genuine love for Asami, was is really appropriate to find a wife by comparing 30 women like they were slabs of beef? — is perhaps more disturbing because the third act isn’t random. Asami’s girlish glee during the climax proves she methodically planned her actions, which, in case I haven’t made it clear yet, are considerably more disturbing than anything you’ve seen before. In one of his essays, pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman discusses the merits of background music to help guide our emotions, and why reality is harder because of a lack of said sound. We know to be scared of either Michael Myers or Jason because of their famous themes, but that music also confirms that we’re not watching reality, so the violence is a little easier to take. We become somewhat desensitized to it. Miike doesn’t let us off so easily. His final is silence, except for the screams and squishy sounds of…well, if you’ve got the stomach, I let you figure that out on your own. Did I mention it was disturbing?

Are the festival stories true? Honestly, I don’t know. They do seem a little extreme, don’t they? But then again, have I mentioned that this movie is disturbing?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5538&reviewer=401
originally posted: 05/26/06 07:57:04
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User Comments

5/07/15 stanley welles a meditative, melancholic masterpiece 5 stars
11/13/12 Euan Is it just me or is it funny too? Eihi,s happy mad act after the slow half is just thrillin 4 stars
2/09/12 David Hollingsworth Deeply disturbing, classy, and nauseating 5 stars
12/31/11 xbeatle Hard to follow at some points(dream/not dream) but bottom line, I watched the whole thing.. 4 stars
12/28/10 Moose Rapper Yes Paul; AWESOME in other words! 5 stars
10/21/10 PAUL SHORTT VIOLENT, CHILLING, GRUESOME AND SADISTIC 2 stars
11/13/09 curtis Great movie.Gory but i found myself compulsed to keep watching during the gore scenes. 5 stars
11/10/09 yeah this movie made me think,i DONT NEED to see whats in the bag next time 2 stars
7/10/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Freaky 4 stars
4/23/09 moshka Whoa...not what I expected, but creepingly excellent!! 5 stars
10/06/08 mr.mike Well worth seeing , albeit somewhat disappointing after the build-up. 4 stars
10/03/06 Charles Tatum Cringe inducing and unsettling 4 stars
9/22/06 Pritchett Much more subdued than I thought it would be, but absorbing, with a hell of a payoff... 5 stars
8/28/06 anthonyuk superb and disturbing 5 stars
8/10/06 melivorous Takashi Miike at his finest! 5 stars
5/09/06 Christine Hosie really liked this one,just when you think it's a straight up guy meets girl love story..... 5 stars
10/28/05 Indrid Cold A few brilliant scenes = good but not great horror. In fact, that's how most "J-horror" is. 4 stars
10/26/05 Crumbcake It's not a gore film, retards...go back to the Guinea Pig series. 5 stars
10/24/05 Suk-R-Punch It's worth the wait through all the more emotional aspects...an amazing film. 5 stars
10/15/05 OodlesofOs Dreamlike, surreal, creepy, nauseating, involving, eerie, masterful, brilliant! 5 stars
10/13/05 Agent Sands Actually, it really isn't that scary. It's got some creatively gory scenes near the end. 3 stars
6/15/05 R i HATE it when that happens.. 5 stars
5/30/05 Anna Ayala Asami's onomatopoeia is more disturbing than Lecter's lip-smacking 4 stars
5/12/05 Beardog8 Creepy atmosphere created by Miike stays with you for weeks. 4 stars
4/15/05 gunther duschtinglhoffa this movie blew my mind...in the bad way 2 stars
12/04/04 K. Sear Quite possibly the most terrifying film I have ever seen. 4 stars
11/15/04 Kyle "the Crack" Jobin Brilliant ending that stays with you long after you've watched it. 5 stars
11/09/04 Alaric L The craziest ending i've ever seen!!! 4 stars
7/12/04 Baz Not good for Gore fans, very boring first 2hours with 1 good scene, much better gore films. 2 stars
3/28/04 Steve A. Excellent. After this ride, you won't look at Asian women the same way. 5 stars
3/26/04 Alfred Guy Great and also hard to watch at times. Deeper, deeper, deeper. 5 stars
3/07/04 C. Hernandez Great!Takes it's time fleshing out main characters before the horror smacks you in the face 5 stars
11/06/03 Me OMFG *Faints* 5 stars
7/11/03 Kyle *snore* 3 stars
4/14/03 john it's a shame more people don't know about this wonderfully creepy film. 5 stars
4/07/03 Chris Fox Excellent film - made me sit up and notice Japanese cinema 5 stars
12/11/02 Acid Rain builds tension slowly but surely 4 stars
9/14/02 Tooltime Taylor Wickedly delicious and very disturbing!! 4 stars
8/14/02 The Bomb 69 just like my dates on Friday night!!! 5 stars
6/24/02 spyguy2 A nice ride as the film as develops but the violent ending is ultimately unsatisfying.a 4 stars
10/06/01 Will Parsons Brilliant insight into human loneliness and a misplaced trust in aesthetics 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Apr-1999 (NR)
  DVD: 23-Aug-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Takashi Miike

Written by
  Ryu Murakami

Cast
  Ryo Ishibashi
  Eihi Shiina
  Tetsu Sawaki
  Jun Kunimura
  Renji Ishibashi
  Miyuki Matsuda



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