Monday, 22 August 2011

Audition (オーディション)Review

Audition (オーディション1999
Alongside anime, Japanese Horror is another genre that has travelled across the globe. With the likes of Ringu, Dark Water and Ju-On (The Grudge) gaining American remakes, it is clear the Japan’s supernatural stories have gained a significant ‘horror audience’. On the other hand, the likes of Tokyo Gore Police, Evil Death Trap and the highly controversial Guinea Pig series form the other violent, deeply sadistic side of a lot of Japanese Horror. As I stated in my short review of Ichi the Killer, Takashi Miike has become a prolific and controversial director known for his taboo film-making and persistent use of violence. However it was 1999‘s Audition that gained him international fame, and brought his distinct type of directing to the thriller/ horror genre. And it still remains one of his best works in amongst his lengthy filmography. 
The film follows Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), a widower for the past 7 years, who is being urged to start dating by his 17-year old son. His friend and colleague Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), a film producer, creates a mock-audition for the “part” of Aoyama’s wife. Various young and beautiful women are questioned and gazed upon. However, he is soon entranced by an ex-ballerina, Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina). Even with a warning from Yoshikawa, and a background that is rather shady, Aoyama is intrigued and enthralled by her looks, charm and emotional depth. But as the two further their relationship, his first impressions soon turn out to be wrong. Yamazaki’s troubled past, and psychological ‘imperfections’ start to become apparent, culminating in tense revelations and twisted events. 
Many have criticised the slow and crawling pace of Miike’s film. With a running time of 115 minutes, it isn’t until halfway through when it dramatically and suddenly turns into a disturbing psychological thriller. Yet, while the ending is typical ‘Miike’, he is a lot more ‘mature’ in his pacing, structure and direction of the plot. When compared to Visitor Q or Imprint, Audition is a more restrained affair that doesn’t linger on the violence, nudity or grotesque imagery. Instead, the majority of the film plays out like a romantic drama creating a false sense of security that truly makes the last act significantly effect. The serenity of the first three-quarters of the film completely contrasts with the last scene which is completely devoted to shocking the audience with grotesque imagery and an unbearably, disturbing torture scene. While the gore is subdued, it’s the sound design and simplistic acting that truly makes the last 20 minutes horrifying. The cinematography, especially the use of lighting, colours and set design really help create the distinctive change in the films tone and atmosphere. The blank white room where the auditions take place differs from the dark, cramped and filthy ‘domain’ of Yamazaki. 
In terms of the acting, it’s not Oscar-winning but it still remains memorable. Ryo Ishibashi gives a solid performance as Shigeharu. Meanwhile, Eihi Shiina is perfectly cast as Asami. She presents herself as an ‘everyday woman’ with no unique features or traits. Her simple yet understanding facial expressions persist throughout the film, creating a charming and cute character. But it’s during the final scenes, when her disturbing glee and joy to her actions adds a more disconcerting effect to the scene. By the end she’s terrifying, but her tragic background and social loneliness adds a complexity to the character which really creates a unique and lasting impression.
Overall, while the slow build up won’t be to everyone’s taste, Audition rewards its audience with memorable acting, and one of the most disturbing and cringe inducing endings. To simple toss it aside as another ‘horror’ film doesn’t do justice to Miike’s construction of a engrossing thriller film with a romantic drama dynamic. It’s all played out realistically and naturally, maybe even too realistically. The premise of a relationship that turns bad is an event that many of us have experienced. And while the image of a 8 foot man wielding a machete, or the walking dead remains easily dismissed as fiction, an insane girlfriend is not out of the question......

1 comment:

  1. I think Asian directors handle horror better than most. This one keeps sitting out there waiting on me to watch it, just haven't been in the mood.

    Nice write up