|Audition (SE)/A-, B
Every once in a while a film comes around that
leaves you gaping with slack jaw and open mouth, unable to speak: Audition
is that kind of film. It takes you by surprise. It leaves a disquieting
feeling that there are things in this world you don't want to know about.
This is not an easy film to watch as it takes its severe turns. One should
approach Audition with great trepidation. You need a strong stomach
to get through it all.
Even when Audition is at its most
conventional, it's not conventional. What begins as a standard domestic
drama turns into a haunting romantic tale about the hope for late love for
relatively young widower Aoyama. He finds his "dream girl"
through a theatrical audition set up by a business colleague. Aoyama is
one square guy. He's apparently a dedicated family man. Since his wife's
untimely death years before he has lavished great attention on his one son
and at the same time dedicated himself, or even buried himself, at work.
The embers of normal life have been smothered by the need bury emotions.
But an innocent remark from his son sets him on a path to find a new wife
and everything changes.
Audition for a girl in a
white dress. ©American Cinematheque
Asami's resume catches at Aoyama's heart even
before he meets her at the audition. She's the girl proverbial in the
white dress. With the introduction of Asami's tale, strangely haunting
from the first, Audition takes on hints of a ghost story. Still,
it's not a ghost story. It's different. It's almost different from
anything I have seen. In the end, I was not quite sure where Audition
took me, only that it took me by the throat with its shocking style.
A thoroughly engrossing film. At times it may
be somewhat confusing, but it is never short of riveting. Audition
is very Japanese in its sensibilities. The overall ghost story
feeling builds like a distorted Noh play. The graphic violence harks
back to some vicious Japanese films of the past like Shohei Imamura's 1979
Vengeance is Mine. Clearly, there are sadomasochistic strands
permeating Audition. And Audition has strong surreal
Director Takashi Miike is unflinching in his
vision. Characters are well drawn and very interesting even before Audition's
engine revs up with a violent throttle. Certainly the situation is quite
an interesting portrait of loneliness, hopes, and desires. Miike is
audacious is his use of imagery. The way he combines disparate elements
adds up to a unique experience. The pacing is hauntingly even, a most
methodical. When tone changes or when there are surprises, the pacing
still marches forward with same metronome precision. It's almost as if
Aoyama is possessed by some terrible spirit. When the romantic inclination
takes hold of him, he can''t quite control himself. Even when there appear
to be warnings, he ignores them.
The actors are very effective. Ryo Ishibashi is
so plain and mundane as Aoyama. It's a simple convincing
performance. Eihi Shiina is like a delicate flower slowly rotting as Asami
Audition does leave itself open to
various interpretations. One can make their own call as to the true
outcome of the film. However, there probably is good evidence to support
one particular ending. What is reality. What is fantasy, dreams,
It's somewhat disappointing that the DVD was not
anamorphic, but the transfer is quite good. It's a clean transfer. There
are no offensive NTSC artifacts like straight edge jitter. Stable image,
stable colors. There is some fine grain delivered very tightly. The Yellow
English titles overlap the image partially and fall into the black
letterbox area thereby preventing use of the zoom feature to blow the
image up to fill a 16 x 9 screen. The Japanese Dolby Digital 5:1 Surround
track was rather on the loud side and I dropped it down about 8 dB to find
a comfortable listening level. Black levels are good, shadow detail is
well executed. The image is sharp. It's very consistent from scene to
Dennis Bartok and Chris Dee, programmers for the
American Cinematheque, conduct a video interview (Approx 24 minutes) with
Takashi Miike. Miike speaks in Japanese and his comments are translated.
There's also a translated commentary track from Miike that begins at
chapter 18 and lasts for 36 minutes.
Trust me: Audition is not a film that will
be easy to forget. While there are inclinations to turn your head from the
screen, it won't be easy to take your eyes from the screen either. Audition
will remain with you, almost haunting you as Aoyama is haunted. Hopefully,
it will not take possession of you.
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