Friday, July 8, 2011

938. Audition (1999)

Running Time: 115 minutes
Directed By: Takashi Miike
Written By: Daisuke Tengan
Main Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura


Despite my current, very tired state, I really wanted to jump in here and jot down my thoughts on the film I just watched, "Audition". Yes, I was intrigued, but I was also very confused, so I came in here to try and type it out and sort out my thoughts. Here we go...

Aoyama (Ishibashi) has been a widower for the past seven years, when one day his son tells him that he looks dispirited and that he might want to consider remarrying. While out for a nightcap with a friend, he mentions what his son told him and almost immediately his friend, Yoshikawa (Kunimura), has a lightbulb go off. His friend suggests that since they're in the entertainment business that they hold a fake audition and try to find Aoyama a new wife. They'll tell the girls that they're auditioning for a part and in the process Aoyama can question them and decide which one he likes. Aoyama reluctantly agrees and Yoshikawa sends him many folders filled with the pictures and resumes of female applicants. Aoyama is taken by one particular resume, that of Asami (Shiina), a girl he feels sympathy for, as he reads her essay and hears of injuries she sustained that kept her from pursuing a career in dance. During the audition, Asami is one of the last girls brought in and Aoyama is completely captivated by her. He continues to pursue her and the relationship begins to progress, leading them all the way to a weekend retreat where Aoyama plans to propose to her. That's where the confusion kicks in and "Audition" turns from just another film, into a "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" caliber film.


After finishing "Audition" earlier tonight, I did something I never do when it comes to the films that I write about - I went and found answers to my questions. Normally I like to come into these reviews bare bones and write what I and I alone know. I like to come to these reviews with my own thoughts and own interpretations and even if I'm confused I want to come here and express that confusion to you and try my best to work it all out. Anyway, what's done is done and I just couldn't wait to get an answer as to what went down in the closing sections of this film.

However...I'm going to try my best to forget what I read and just bring to you my thoughts upon the rolling of the end credits. First, some general perceptions. When I read the synopsis for the film, I couldn't help but notice the word "HORROR" in the genre. I didn't think it to be a typical horror film, 1) because it was in the "1001" book 2) because it was Japanese horror and directed by a man I've heard a lot of good things about - Takashi Miike and 3) I've heard people rave about this film in the past. At close to an hour into the movie, I still hadn't seen anything resembling any type of horror. What I did see was a decent picture about a widowed man trying to get back into the dating scene and going about it in a very informal way. Beyond that, it was simply a tale of courtship with some very minor little twists and bumps along the way. Then we get to that weekend getaway that I was talking about and things start to get a little wacky. The horror doesn't come immediately, but I'm waiting for it at every turn and as I wait, my intrigue level keeps rising and rising, as I'm just chomping at the bit to see how they're going to incorporate horror into this seemingly innocent little tale of a widowed man. Things start to get a little more wacky, but still nothing horrific and I'd heard of Takashi Miike and I knew all about his gory reputation. So then the gore arrives and it's pretty freaky stuff and jump cuts are made and Aoyama wakes up from a dream and then goes back to sleep and by the end, I'm confused, but still bound and determined to find out what the hell happened.

I'm usually pretty good at piecing together films and stripping them down to breakthrough the confusion, but I was baffled by this one - maybe it was because I was a little tired, maybe it was just because. I find my way to IMDB and the "Audition" message board and find a really detailed synopsis of one man's interpretations of the plot and it really all makes sense. It suggests (and I'm quoting him, these aren't my interpretations...and I'm paraphrasing) that we never actually see the REAL Asami, but rather Aoyama's perceptions of her. We start out seeing what Aoyama things she SHOULD BE, then seeing what she MIGHT BE, but never make it to what she REALLY IS. It's a good interpretation and honestly, I think it's spot on, but let me throw a few of my own cents in for good measure.

In my opinion, the film also has an element of trying to convey the pain that comes in testing new waters, in this case the new waters that come with a new relationship/commitment. I think we're looking at the story of a man who was so fragile after the loss of his wife and a girl who was so fragile after years of physical and possibly mental abuse and the fusing of these two people and the pain that will possibly or perhaps does come from it all. How many relationships do you know of that haven't had at least a little bit of pain associated with them? Even successful relationships have some sort of an element of suffering or pain or even emotional risk associated with them. I think that at least a little bit of the film is about those types of perils that we face as human beings and how anytime we enter into a new commitment, we're really exposing ourselves to possible pain and self torture. So many of us are often times afraid to expose ourselves to what could possibly be beautiful and lasting relationships, that we miss out on those experiences and often times just go on being alone.

In terms of the story, I look at it this way. Lets say Aoyama's son says "Dad, get out there and get remarried" and Aoyama thinks about it, tosses it around his head and thinks of what could happen. He starts to think about the endless possibilities, both good and bad and takes them to the ultimate extremes. On one end, he meets a woman who wants nothing but to please him, who waits by the phone for his calls and says "Yes sir" and "No sir" and "Oh Sir, but that's so interesting sir" and on the other end you have the most violent of extremes, as he might possibly meet a woman who is a real psycho and who may...just maybe end up lopping off his limbs with razor wire and shoving needles into his eyes. I think that's what this film is about (at least partly), the worry that we go through when we are confronted with the possibility of a new relationship - the fear that comes along and trying our best to overcome that fear and turn it into joy.

Also, for what it's worth, I really (really) wanted to watch this again, but decided long ago that each of the 1001 films would get one chance...and one chance only to WOW me. This one still did a damn fine job, but I didn't want to give it any advantages in the upcoming TOP 20.

RATING: 8.5/10 Or maybe I'm wronger than wrong and Asami really was a lunatic who wears a hockey jersey that says "THE LOPPER"...who knows.


July 8, 2011 2:31am

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