Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is simple widower living a lonely life with his son, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki). Going off an idea from his producer friend, Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kinimura), Aoyama decides to participate in a fake audition in order to find a suitable woman to remarry. Though innocent in execution, Aoyama is successful in the mock audition and finds a beautiful girl by the name of Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), who seems more than what she portrays herself to be. Filmed with unbridled ferocity and unrestrained intensity, Takashi Miike presents his horror magnum opus, "Audition."
I hate this film... I hate this film simply for the sole reason that it accomplishes what many films before its time has failed to do: Scare the living shit out of me.
And I don't scare easily mind you. I've sat through many and all horror films that saturated the silver screen with as much gore and knife stabbing action to shake a one-legged donkey with. But "Audition" is a whole other thing. A whole other entity by itself in terms of terror, and I swear to god, the sheer thought of the film sends shivers down my spine and for the first time in my life, I shudder at the thought of a cute, lithe and tawny Japanese girl who's willing to love me long time.
"Audition" is as much fun as the Incredible Hulk stripping you down, bending you over and sodomizing you with all his Lou Ferrigno might. It is definitely an erection killer and you will not recover from Takashi Miike's film.
But nonetheless, this film is utter genius and amazing. If it wasn't for the fact that I sat in a cold Landmark theatre freezing my ass off, I could say that this was one of the most exciting movie going experiences I've ever had. I walked into this film with all the hype in the world of something truly scary and terrifying and I came out twitching in absolute and utter frightfulness and shock.
The most effective aspect of the film in terms of narrative and storytelling was the overall pacing and tempo of "Audition." From the very start, Miike presents the audience with a charming and lovely story about a father coping with his loneliness. Using captivating interactions of Aoyama with his son where they discuss marriage, girls, and basic companionship, a beautiful and fully charismatic relationship is defined and presented. These scenes were photographed in long takes, slow camera movements and projected with little or no ambiance. Some of the more powerful scenes were of Aoyama just sitting in his den, leaning back, staring at his dead wife's picture and contemplating his situation in life. Early on, you worry, sympathize and wish nothing but happiness and joy from this man. You become a concerned friend.
Worst yet, coming off as an affectionate story about a man, his son and their life without a female figure in their immediate family, "Audition" takes a small, dreamy focus towards a romantic story between Aoyama and his newly discovered love interest, Asami. Between the dating and charming chit chats between the two, an adorable rapport is formed based on the way they each come undone with one another and how unload the insecurities and anxieties they have about life and people in general. Inevitably, the film comes full circle to where the audience is fully invested in this man's life and his pursuit for happiness and love.
After all this set up and time developing characters the audience can relate to, the film begins its slow and decelerated direction into madness. If you were apathetic before, you will care now.
Even throughout the film, Aoyama questions himself and the way he has gone about searching for his idealistic woman. Though the audience understands that Aoyama searches for more than an obedient and beautiful woman, it becomes unclear as to whether his actions are morally just. He represents both the lucid and illogical. It is pointed out earlier in the film that there is this gaping hole in his life and the comforts and the availability of a woman would definitely help fill the cavity. Does he do it for his own selfish reasons, hiding behind a shroud of curiosity or does he honestly yearn for love and a mother forhis son? And does he truly deserve everything that comes in the end?
There is this phenomenon in Japan about the way they portray their women in films, books, art and other forms of entertainment. Experts and socialist call it the "demonizing" of the female figure. While men are socially accepted as perverts and sexual beasts, women are painted portraits of devils and beings that stalk and torture their male counterparts in the form of emotional and physical abuse. Depending on which side of the gender coin you may be on, some may view "Audition" as either irrationally stripping women of their morale and ethics, turning them into fiends of society, or the ultimate in female retribution, feminists for the new millennium.
Whether or not Takashi Miike's intentions for "Audtion" to be a commentary on Japanese culture, it still reflects and continues to perpetuate a societal tendency. Originally a book written by Ryu Murakami, "Audition" is intelligent, potent in its imagery, efficient in delivery and depending on how squeamish and unstable you may be, successful in scary the living heck out of you.
I'm very impressed. This is the third release from The American Cinematheque (after BLACK TIGHT KILLERS and FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION). The DVD comes in a great digi-pack which looks like the same as those used by HK Video (France) for their releases. The image quality is only Widescreen, not anamorphic (this is where the prefect is lost), but still is far better that the Hong Kong Region 3 release. The sound is a very good, original Japanese Dolby Digial 5.1 audio track and the subtitles are also of excellent quality, great timing and very clear. But where this release really shines is in the EXTRA department. An intreview with Takashi Miike (22 min), a commentary audio from the director (starts at chapter 18), Miike Bios, photo gallery, 2 trailers of AUDITION and 5 extra trailers of Upcoming Cinematheque releases (such as Happiness of the Katakuris and City Of The lost Souls). The last extra consist of a tour documentary about the story of the Egyptian Theater. This is no doubt the best release available of this movie, especially for a Region 1 DVD, which will be easy for fans of AUDITION to find. I'm glad that American Cinematheque took the time to make an excellent release with this great Miike film and I jsut can't wait to see what they are preparing us for his next two releases.
The Universe release has a Letterbox transfer and comes in Dolby Digital 2.0. In general, the image quality is not too bad, but I found that the contrast to be a bit bright and sometimes came off as a little foggy, but pleasing enough for the average viewer. The only available extra comes in the form of a trailer. I would suggest those that own a DVD player that can read PAL DVD's, you should go for the Tartan release which is a better transfer and contains some decent extras. But if not, the Universe edition is satisfactory for those yearning to see "Audition.