Director: Takashi Miike
Following his son’s advice, lonely widower Shigeharu (Ishibashi) hops back into the dating game in the hopes of finding the perfect dame. When his buddy, a partner with him in the movie biz, offers to set up an actors’ “audition” with the main goal being for Shigeharu to screen girls in the hopes of finding a wife, he accepts the idea and through the process, hooks up with the chick of his dreams (Shiina)…or does he? Welcome to MY nightmare!
“You love only me, don’t you?”-- Asami
How ironic that I watched this film at this point in my life. You see, I've recently plunged back into the “casual dating “pool as opposed to the cheap one night stands (is Arrow growing up?) and I found myself taken aback by the slew of neurotic, insecure, stalker potential and overly-complicated women I’ve been wining and dining. After another disastrous “tete-a-tete”, I got home with chilling out on the fritz and slapped this baby in the DVD player. The next thing you know, this flick’s subject matter is all about the noise that I’ve been living. Thank you “Audition” for reintegrating that “dating” blows celery sticks! WOW! I actually recommend that you try to see “Audition” cold, so if you haven’t viewed this bad girl yet-- stop reading this review, hook it up, watch it and then come back to get my two bits.
Now for the movie itself, although somewhat subjective, there’s no denying that this film strongly explored a slate of universal human themes to which we can all relate to some degree. It acted as a feminism-inclined tale when it came to men treating women like objects (very common in Japan I hear, more so than in America) and in this case suffering the dire consequences. At the same time, for me anyways, it also tackled the flipside of that coin where we men don’t ever really know what’s truly going on in some gal’s noggin and that we should “date” with extreme caution. The film also made a powerful statement on the oh-so painful human condition known as loneliness, addressed the severe results of long-term child abuse (we get some disturbing images off that theme…yuck) while also exploring the many emotional levels (insecurities/dependency/selfish ideals) that come with the notion (or is it illusion) that we call “love”.
For the initial bulk of the movie, I really didn’t feel like I was watching a horror dish and that’s what gave the brutal zaniness that was to come so much more impact. Apart from a swift, semi “unsettling” image early on, what I was witnessing through the first part was a “love story”, where two people were trying to get to know each other, emotional baggage in tow, with the hopes of sorting it out and reaching the state of bliss known as love (that freaking word again…urg). I was definitely reeled in by the layered characters, their quests, their flaws and the random foreshadowing hints of impending doom which graduated to a higher degree as the clock ticked forward. But nothing…and I mean nothing (not even Tequila shots) could’ve prepared me for what this sucker puncher had in store for my “testosterone heavy” self.
The journey in hell began with a gripping and surreal investigation angle that managed to go Cronenberg on me (all about that tongue). We then ventured directly into Lynch-land where exposition was served up via dreams, fantasies and hallucinations. I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t and that was the point. The film was “artsy fucking” with me, I knew it and I was enjoying every micro-second of it. Then, the slam dunk came when all of the film’s hidden and closeted skeletons poured out via what was easily one of the hardest scenes I’ve had to watch this year. Argento would be proud! I was exhausted and emotionally drained after sitting through that excruciating bit and as the end credits rolled, I swore out loud to forego dating FOREVER with a hearty “Fuck this shit man…I’m out of this game!” (incidentally I got a date tomorrow…I just don’t learn…bugh).
Looking back I have no peeves with “Audition” whatsoever. It was an extremely fulfilling watch all around, not only from a narrative standpoint, but also through the fine actors (Eihi Shiina was simply hypnotizing in her stunning looks and chilling demeanor) and the straight-to-quite-insane directing coating the house. Attend this "Audition", get the part and discover what is sure to become a cult classic...if it isn’t already.
We some thick salsa with a graphic beheading, a severed foot and some cute toying with long needles. I’ll leave it at that (don’t want to spoil things), but trust me when I say that this film is messy and hard to watch at times (see unrated version).
Ryo Ishibashi (Shigeharu) was mucho likeable as the simple and loving father in search of “Miss Right”. Eihi Shiina (Asami) was not only gorgeous, but her low-key state contributed to the role’s ambiguousness and mystery. I have to admit that when she spoke the lines: “deeper, deeper, deeper” in her native tongue, my blood froze. Great stuff going on here!
T & A
Nothing blatant, but we do get some suggestions. Let your dirty minds gap what’s not shown and have a “baby oil” blast!
Takashi Miike played his cards straight on a visual standpoint for the first half of the film echoing what was happening “story wise”, but as the substance progressed to a more “nutty” vibe, so did the visuals. Filters, crazy time leaps, stylish shots and a somber mood eventually punched in hard. Great stuff!
The score by Kôji Endô was subtle to the point of totally vanishing from my consciousness during some moments…it worked. We also got what sounded like some Japanese “Jazz” songs.
“Audition” will not woo everybody. Its pace is deliberately slow and it takes a while for the horror to break out full blast-- but that’s exactly what I dug so much about it. It led me through a walk in the field, gradually pealing away the skin of the fruit to finally reveal just how rotten the apple was. It then cracked my skull open with its finale. If patience is one of your virtues and you like to be mentally stimulated through your genre intake, hit this dagger and get ready for an all-around rewarding cinematic experience. Just don’t chomp on nachos while watching the flick...they might wind up auditioning on your carpet as the end credits unfold. I’m off to my next date friends...wish me luck! I’M FREAKING DOOMED! “Deeper, Deeper, Deeper”!
Ryo Ishibashi (Shigeharu) is a rock 'n roll musician in his everyday life. While Eihi Shiina (Asami) was a model who just started branching into acting.
"Audition" also goes by the title "Odishon".