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Takashi Miike's "Audition" has to be one of the best Japanese horror movies I have ever seen.Ryo Ishibashi plays Shigeharu Aoyama,a lonely middle-aged man.After many years of being loyal to his deceased wife is the right time to begin dating again.His friend Yasuhisa decides to set up a fake casting audition in hopes that his friend can find new wife.Aoyama then goes through countless portfolio's looking for women to audition,but as soon as he sees the beautiful Asami's picture he knows that she is the one.Soon they begin dating.Everything seems perfect at first,but is Asami all that she seems?"Audition" isn't as violent and outrageous as "Fudoh" or "Ichi the Killer",but it certainly delivers some of the most harrowing scenes of violence ever captured on screen.The film is atmospheric and artistic,so if you're looking only for gore and violence avoid this one like the plague.However if you're a fan of Miike's works this masterpiece is not to be missed.10 out of 10.
Art-house horror flicks are not a very common genre (few come to mind except
'Don't Look Now') but Takashi Miike's film 'Audition' is a welcome addition
to the canon. Beautifully shot and orchestrated, it is both a subtle
personal drama and one of the most genuinely horrifying things I have seen.
The early stages of this film resemble a work by Claude Sautet, only seen
through a Japanese sensibility, about the relationship between an older man
and a beautiful young woman, but there's something slightly discomforting
both in the man's definition of the perfect partner, and in the person he
finds who fulfills it. The story slides into first a mystery, and then a
full blown horror story, the power of which comes from following a very
simple golden rule: namely, make the audience care about the characters
first: one small needle can be very very scary if you think that it's for
real. And by keeping the meaning ambiguous (unlike, say, 'The Shining', with
its self-defeating collapse into hyperbolic mania), the film also retains
its impact after the initial shock.
This sense of ambiguity is also crucial to the film's claims to be something more than simply an unorthodox gore-fest. 'Audition' constructs, and then deconstructs, a certain vision of the world and the "horror" scenes are only part of this. The result is utterly beguiling, and one can even see similarities with Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' in 'Audition's' portrayal of a man's complicit relationship with hell.
In some ways, this is not a universal film and I could not imagine it working in English: can you envisage any Western actress speaking the Eihi Shiina's lines with a straight face?. Whether that's because the film is saying something profound about Japanese culture, or whether the fact that it appears to do so can finesse the issue for foreign audiences, I'm not sure. Dramatically, 'Audition' is, despite its climax, not the best film ever made. But atmospherically speaking, it's a masterpiece.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's probably an exaggeration to describe Audition as extreme (its
mixture of gore and realism is nowhere near as bad as in, say,
Irrerversible or A Hole In My Heart), but that shouldn't sidetrack from
what is ultimately a very challenging and unorthodox film. While the
idea of a film changing genres midstream is nothing new or radical in
itself (From Dusk Till Dawn is a good example), the way in which
Audition suddenly hits you with its own surrealistic brand of Freudian
horror is wholly untypical because the change in genre is not just a
gimmick (likein aforementioned Dusk Till Dawn) but is used to directly
comment on whatever has preceded it during the storyline.
One thing which struck me about Audition is how complete and accomplished it all seems. I say this because most of Takashi Miike's work (including films I sincerely enjoyed, like Ichi The Killer or Dead Or Alive) does appear a bit rushed at times. No doubt this is in part due to Miike's notoriously insane work rate - an average of three films a year - but it makes Audition all the more remarkable. This is in no way meant to downplay Miike's other work, it's simply to emphasise the strengths on display with Audition: nigh-flawless acting, stunning cinematography, a very intelligently and thoughtfully constructed narrative, and some of the most memorable (albeit disturbing) imagery I've ever seen on film.
To regard the final third of Audition as a feminist revenge fantasy is true to a degree, but I think it's also to oversimplify the more cerebral aspects of the narrative. Graham White made some excellent points in his review of the film here, and it's difficult to add anything of substance, but I personally interpreted the final third as a physical illustration of the mixture of guilt and fear Aoyama feels towards both his old and new wife; guilt at his late wife for remarrying, and at Asami for holding a fake audition and furthermore lying to all women involved during the audition (a point where Aoyama himself says he feels like some sort of criminal). In any case, people who take this film at face value are missing the point because the final third is an extended metaphor (even if the myriad of different interpretations we can arrive at illustrates how richly textured the narrative is).
Unfortunately the film's ingenuity is often ignored due to its violent content, and as a consequence Audition is stuck in a double bind of sorts, too violent for serious movie goers and too intellectually challenging for gore fans. This is probably a gross generalisation of its audience, but the fact that people constantly bicker about its "boring" start and it's violent ending, while very little attention is paid to the thematic elements of the narrative, seems to suggest that this film has largely been misinterpreted in what it actually set out to achieve. Audition does not simply aim to comment on the state of relationships between men and women, it also aims to challenge our perception of film genre by playing around with conventions to such an effect that it deliberately shocks and destabilises its audience. Ultimately, this is what makes Audition such a challenging movie. We as an audience have become so accustomed to the lazy generic categorisations of movies that when we see a love story we want a romance, and when we see horror we want gore. Finding the two mixed up challenges our expectations and demystifies the notion that everything about a film can be summarised by the one genre it's meant to fit into. I hate using the word post-modern, but this is what ultimately what this film is, since it's very conscious of the conventions it plays with. Furthermore, this is not simply a case of romance mixing with horror, but also with realism mixing with extended metaphors, and the latter eventually taking over the narrative completely - it's very rare that this sort of thing happens in film, but needless to say it only adds to the clever originality on display here.
If a mainstream audience is willing to dismiss a film as radical and wonderfully uncompromising as this simply because it does not meet their narrow expectations of what films are meant to be, and if they are unwilling to embrace a different kind of film making and widen their scope, then I expect the fault not to rest with the film itself but with the audience that has rejected it. I for one am glad to have seen it,
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's no secret that most, if not all, of the best horror films being
made today are being made not in Hollywood but overseas: namely Asia.
Stories not about ghosts, but about the simplest of acts, are being
told with horrific overtones, and this is one of the best.
Real horror is not about the actual confrontation between the hero/heroine and the monster in the attic, but about the anticipation leading to that encounter where we see an impending sense of wrongness, of something terrible lurking just around the corner that may have an equally horrible gift in tow.
Takashi Miike, the true star and ringleader of this disturbing foray into terror, brings us a (deceptively simple) set-up about a TV producer, Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), who is looking for a bride by the use of an ruse: an "audition" for a "film." (It all has the lighthearted tone of a romantic comedy of manners, depicting sexual attitudes in a totally different culture.) Once he settles for a shy girl dressed in complete, virginal white, Asami, (Eihi Shiina), the stage is set for their subsequent meetings as he is drawn closer to her allure despite the fact that her resume has some seemingly glaring holes -- people she's been associated with have gone missing.
When Aoyama decides to call Asami, we're introduced to the most disturbing scene in the movie: her empty apartment, her figure seen sitting by the phone and a large canvas bag (seen near the background). Once the phone rings, the canvas bag suddenly jerks, Asami coldly smiles, a scene that totally switches the romantic tone of the film and makes a screaming left turn into what can only be considered a surrealistic nightmare or a bad acid trip that is devoid of "true resolution" -- by Miike's own words. And by doing so, ODISHON becomes Asami's story, her reenaction of a trauma inflicted on her by a sick older man, with Aoyama as her newest victim.
This is definitely a powerful film with layers of subtext and a study on how to create a convincing horror story in which we are the monsters and agents of our own entrapments, and that even monsters who re-enact their crucial split with reality were themselves once battered children. Of course, I would not recommend this as a movie to watch if one is "getting to know" their date. There is something revolting of not knowing the reason that a flapping, disembodied tongue just happens to be in front of the front door of your date's apartment.
Movies like Scream, I Know What you Did Last Summer, and their
teenage-pheremone-reeking ilk have absolutely no right to call
themselves "horror movies" when we have a film like Audition to watch.
This movie starts out very slowly, very sweetly, and builds to a fantastic gruesome climax that you don't see coming. Genuinely scary. I am a huge horror movie affectionado, and I have NEVER in my life watched a movie that made gasp like this one did. I was revolted, I was disturbed, I was scared.
Why is this movie so much better than anything I've seen? Subtlety. This movie makes good use of silence, sound effects and off camera action to SUGGEST instead of SHOW you what's happening. It's much more satisfying to watch a movie with this kind of approach than it is to watch people get stabbed with blood spraying all over the place. This movie follows no classic "horror movie rules". It's completely original.
It's not without its faults, of course. The plot is a little strange, and as the movie progresses on it sometimes gets a little hard to follow. Some would also argue that the beginning is too long and too heavy, but I think this is a perfect and even needed contrast to the crazy goings-on that will unfold.
This is a fabulous movie. Check this out if you'd like to see a REAL scary movie.
Based on a novel by Ryu Murakami, director Takashi Miike's Audition is
surprisingly "deliberate" and straightforward for much of its length.
It's not a bad film at all, but most of it is in the realm of realist
drama, even becoming something of a romance at one point. There are a
few brutal images and scenarios, but they arrive primarily towards the
end of the film, and they tend to be more conceptually disturbing than
Audition is the story of Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), who is living alone with his son, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki), after his wife, Ryoko (Miyuki Matsuda), passes away. First egged on by Shigehiko, Shigeharu decides to remarry. He enlists the help of a movie producer friend, Yasuhisha Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), who devises a scheme well known to pornographers--he sets up bogus auditions for a film.
Yasuhisha acquires a large number of resumes and headshots for this purpose, out of which he asks Shigehiko to choose 30 women to audition. Before the audition day even arrives, Shigehiko has his eyes set on one particular woman, Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina). Asami strikes Yasuhisha as peculiar, but Shigehiko has fallen for her and a romance begins. However, Yasuhisha turns out to be right--there is something strange about her, as the audience can clearly see due to the fine performance from Shiina. Audition explores Asami's story and her relationship to Shigehiko.
It's a good hour, at least, before anything very out of the ordinary happens in the film, and even when that time does arrive, the strange occurrences are extremely subtle at first. The pacing and tone of this first half of the film is more similar to Hideo Nakata's style as displayed in films like Ringu (1998) and Dark Water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara, 2002). This is only the third Miike film I've seen so far (I had difficulty tracking them down for purchase or rental before I joined Netflix), and the directorial style of Audition was surprising to me. That's because so far, every Miike film I've seen has a completely different style (the other two I've watched to date are Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya 1) and Happiness of the Katakuris (Katakuri-ke no kôfuku), both from 2001).
But as a realist drama that ventures into romance and slight mystery/thriller territory during its first half, Audition is a fine piece of art--you just have to know what to expect. All of Miike's films that I've seen so far--as different as they are stylistically--share excellent direction. Miike is extremely adept at handling his cast, he knows how to get incredible cinematography, and he has interestingly varied ways of blocking scenes. Audition has a combination of a voyeur and a psychologically dissociative theme in its cinematography, appropriate to the plot. We view quite a few scenes from a distance--the camera is sometimes even placed in a room adjacent to the main action; there is a great hand-held tracking shot following Shigeharu and Yasuhisha through their office from behind partitions ala James Whale's Frankenstein (1931); an important "repeated scene" in a restaurant that gives us another psychological angle, with significantly altered dialogue, is shot at a distance; in the dénouement, another repeated dialogue scene with shifted meaning is shot from another room, and so on.
Of course, the main attraction for most folks, at least in my part of the world, is the more mysterious and visceral material that enters in the second half, as the majority of Miike fans tend to be horror fans. For awhile, Miike, Murakami and scriptwriter Daisuke Tengan (whom Miike amusingly says must have "been on drugs" when he wrote Audition, because the script was so weird--he implies that he tried to "normalize" it a bit) play with audience expectations as Audition threatens to become a more standard relationship thriller, then a ghost story, then a rubber reality film (all of these things are implied in turn during one of the best extended sequences of the film), and finally, we realize that it's more about a psychotic villain. This final revelation leads to the infamous climactic scenes of the film, which will test some audience members' constitutions as we venture into more grisly territory accompanied by marvelous hallucinatory sequences. The performances in this section are worthy of a 10, even if, as Miike says in his commentary, Shiina, at least, seemed to almost stop performing and simply became the character--a frightening thought, particularly for Ishibashi.
There are a number of subtexts that one can read into Audition, although Miike characteristically (for Asian genre cinema) stresses an intention of ambiguity. Many read the film as kind of a twisted feminist empowerment fantasy. After all, even if Shigeharu did not have the womanizing history and ill intentions for the audition that some characters believe him to have had, those beliefs are in line with at least a cynical misogynistic account of the typical motivations. Shigehiko's "girlfriend", who makes a brief appearance, is presented as a counterexample to be surmounted on this reading, as she is a traditional token of a more yielding female. Shigeharu's coworker who says she is going to get married is presented as a more implicitly "abused" counterexample.
But the film works on many other levels, too, no less a very literal one. Although I only thought Audition was a "B" (the letter grade equivalent to my 8) this time around, I can easily see my score improving on future viewings when I have more appropriate expectations. If you are a fan of Hideo Nakata's films, or even Byeong-ki Ahn's Phone (2002), which is very similar in tone, you shouldn't miss Audition.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I will not go over plot points already covered in other reviews, but
add another dimension to the discussion of the horror / gore aspect of the
movie. Essentially I agree with the points point forward by the reviewer
'tedg' from Virginia Beach.
In my view, the horrific and gory scenes of Aoyama being drugged, dismembered and so on are all dreamt. That is, everything between Aoyama being covered with a sheet after entering the bed with Asami and his waking up to fetch a glass of water is a dream. The dream continues after he goes back to bed.
To put it simply, at the surface level, the movie is a psychologically acute and well acted drama about the growing relationship between Asami and Aoyama. Now, just as vintage horror fans will tell you, that which is implied is far more subtly terrifying than simple splatter and gore. The torture and punishment Aoyama undergoes at the hands of Asami is a nightmare firmly rooted in the narrative of the so-called boring build-up to these gut-wrenching scenes.
An attentive look at the first three quarters of the movie reveals how motifs, phrases, and the emotional 'baggage' brought by each protagonist to the relationship are reworked in Aoyama's subconscious into a terrifying nightmare.
It is to the writer's credit that this nightmare follows dream-logic in a way that is still cinematic and accessible. It is a dream which reveals much about the character of Aoyama, and nothing at all about Asami. (In fact, through the whole film, she is more an object of his gaze and interpretation than a subject narrating her own experience.)
Does this mean that this movie should not be classified as a horror film? In my view, it is better seen, any only makes sense, at the level of an insightful, character driven drama about the guilt-complex of a traditional middle-aged man decided upon marrying a younger woman with some baggage of her own. Her 'baggage' is, of course, only alluded to, but it is enough for Aoyama's imagination to work into a powerful expression of his own fears and sense of guilt. And, likeable as the character of Aoyama is, there is enough for his guilt to chew on: he has used the an artificial and deceptive 'audition' to find himself a wife. He was against the idea but talked into it by his coworker. Is it so strange that his subconscious should reproach him for it? He is remarrying after the death of his first wife through illness. Is it so strange that she should reappear in the dream sequence to warn him against Asami? And Asami herself is somewhat of a mysterious character. She is marrying a far older man. Why? And why isn't she already involved with someone. She has had a difficult upbringing. What emotional scars might it have left on her? The character herself, so brilliantly acted, also conveys a negative 'vibe' in the way some people just seem to do.
This is a movie in which the 'male' gaze is very much the primary one. The story is told from his point of view. But the female has her own revenge. She intrudes through the workings of his subconscious, complicated by his doubts and his repressed sense of guilt. If she must be objectified in the manner she is, an unattached female drawn out of a short-list of viable female candidates and turned into a dutiful wife, then she might just become, potentially a rather nasty object. In the strange, reverse world of the dream, she has become the active subject, and he is the drugged and immobile victim of her tortures and punishments. .
Why, then, is the movie always referred to as a horror film? In short, it needed to be promoted as such to get an audience. If the reviews here are anything to go by, it certainly seems to have been received as such.
But it is so much more than a horror flick, one-and-a-half hours more in fact. It is NOT a horror film with good characterization, but an insightful romantic drama with a violent undertone of personal and cultural repression. In fact, I would say that it is unique in standing between the two genres, linking the two and transgressing the bounds of both, for if horror films are so often characterless splatterfests, then romantic dramas are also often guilty of being superficial, sugary twaddle. To see it any other way is to overlook what the film achieves at once so brilliantly and so terrifyingly. Whether this was a fluke or intended as such, can only be answered by the director himself. I like to think, that like Asami, this movie can take on a life of its own in the viewer's mind.
Well, we always knew the Japanese could do horror films with exceptional flair, but psychological horror hasn't been this exhilarating (and ultimately nauseating) since, well, since, I don't know when. Beware, this is not for the weak of heart, and don't be fooled by it's satiric comedic set-up. When the "audition" is through, you may want to throw up, or praise the film-makers for being so bold.
I was extremely underwhelmed by the much hyped Japanese horror film 'Ringu',
so I approached 'Odishon' with some caution. I needn't have worried.
'Odishon' bears no resemblance to the lame supernatural chills of 'Ringu'.
It is in fact closer to the more extreme moments of David Cronenberg, and
the profoundly disturbing movies of Jorg Buttgereit, Shinya Tsukamoto, and
Directed with great flair by Takashi Miike, and based on a novel by the amazing Ryu Murakami ('Almost Transparent Blue' and 'Coin Locker Babies'), 'Odishon' wipes the floor with Hollywood's recent output of supposedly "confronting" movies ('American Psycho', 'Boy's Don't Cry', 'Requiem For A Dream') and by-the-numbers serial killer thrillers ('Hannibal', 'Kiss The Girls', 'The Cell',etc.). Forget those safe, mediocre bores THIS is the real deal!
Miike lulls you into a false sense of security with his leisurely storytelling and quiet character development, which makes the pay off of the last part of the movie even more shocking and unexpected. Ryo Ishibashi is well cast as the middle aged businessman stuck in a rut, and the beautiful Eihi Shiina is absolutely astonishing as the girl of his dreams who turns out to be not QUITE what he expected.
The less you know about 'Odishon' the better. If you enjoy extreme movie making at its best you'll go ga ga over this first rate slice of shock cinema. Simply unforgettable.
There are about 15 minutes of "Audition" that everyone remembers and
talks about, and about 95 minutes of movie that you'd think didn't even
exist if you listened to others' comments. But this is the director's
fault; when you set out to shock your audience as much as Takashi Miike
does in this film, you can't blame the audience if all they remember
about your film is the shocking part.
Which is a shame, because "Audition" is quite a bit more than a mere horror movie. It's really more of a feverish psychological drama along the lines of a David Lynch film. In fact, in structure and tone, this film reminded me of Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," and if Lynch didn't have his own unique style and brand of film-making, I might wonder if he was inspired in part by this film when he made his own.
What other comments here have done nicely is summarize what "Audition" is "about." A man (Shigeharu Aoyama) mourning the loss of his wife looks to find the perfect woman to replace her, and he holds bogus auditions for an ostensible film role in order to find her. But the girl who catches his interest (Asami Yamazaki) turns out to be a much better actress than he bargained for. What other comments DON'T necessarily convey, however, is how much of this film takes place in the world of dreams, and how blurred the line between reality and fantasy is. This dilutes the violence of the film's final moments, because there is a strong suggestion that this violence is taking place in the protagonist's nightmares.
Is "Audition" a critique of the confined roles women are forced to inhabit in Japanese society? Is it about Aoyama's guilt in feeling the need for a woman to replace his dead wife? Is it about his fear of finding a girl that actually can replace her, thereby diminishing what he had with her? Is the film about the extent to which all relationships are "auditions," where each person involved makes him/herself vulnerable and exposes him/herself to acceptance or rejection at the whims of another? A case can be made for its being about all of these things.
When the violence comes at the end, it's not as graphic as the hype would lead you to believe. Even so, I wish Miike hadn't pushed the envelope quite so far. One has to wonder if the emotional impact of the film would have been any less just because the violence was less graphic, and I suspect the answer to that is no. The violence feels gratuitous and cheapens slightly everything that comes before it. It mars the film, but fortunately it doesn't ruin it.
This is far more of a thinking man's film that its reputation would lead you to believe. Those who come to it for the titillating shock of its gore are bound to be disappointed.
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