Film Commentary [10-21-01]
Sleepless in Seattle meets Fatal Attraction - - Audition (Odishon)
Genre: Thriller/horror
Grade = A-
Japanese with English subtitles

I have not had very many film reviews this year for several reasons. One, this has been a lousy year for movies and those that I actually go to the theater to see I have not been the least bit interested in taking the time to draft and post a review. Second, I have been too busy. Third, I have been far to lazy to write reviews of the films that I actually like. I try to see all Japanese films that come to Houston primarily because the Japanese are better storytellers in film than most other people. That is how I came to see Audition after I saw it posted on a Japanese culture newsgroup that I subscribe to. I had no idea what the film was about but poster outside lead me to believe that it was a thriller. [No, not this one -------------------------------------------------------------------------------->]

The first hour of the film left me wondering whether or not this was true. The film begins with the death of Aoyama’s (Ryo Ishibashi) wife, leaving him a widower with a young son. The film skips forward seven years. Aoyama is a is a middle-aged executive, with his own television film production company. His son is now in his late teens. The son remarks that he is starting to look plain and that he should think about remarrying. In a late night bar Aoyama relates this comment to his business partner Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), who comes up with the plan that they should stage auditions for a new film and use this as an excuse for Aoyama to shop for a suitable wife from those actresses that come to audition for the film.

Aoyama takes a stack of the actresses’ resumes home to review for the upcoming auditions. He is struck by the essay written by one of the actresses. At the audition he ignores all the other applicants and is immediately attracted to her. She is a shy 24-year-old ex-ballet dancer, named Asami (Eihi Shiina). He later asks her out and they begin to date. She is attentive, quiet and polite and she appears flattered by his interest. Yoshikawa makes discreet enquiries into her background and discovers that her background is a web of mystery. It seems that she has not been entirely truthful with Aoyama, who, by this time, is far too enamored of her to care. On taking her to a weekend get away were he plans to ask her to marry her, she says "Please love me." "Only me." In the morning she has disappeared and he starts to search for her. He begins a journey straight into hell itself.

Back when I was a teenager, with my friends I saw virtually every gore flick that came out. One of the things we did was to go to the midnight movie screenings of Dawn of the Dead, one of the best and goriest horror films ever made, and have a good old time yelling comments to the film and annoying the rest of the audience. Needless to say, I have become inured to the sight of violence, blood and gore on the screen. However, after this movie ended, I walked out of the theater literally stunned by what I had seen and couldn’t take my mind off it all day.

Directed by Takashi Miike from the novel by Ryu Murakami, the story is told in a surrealistic style uncommon in most American films and much more along the lines of a David Cronenberg movie. Another example is Brian De Palma’s Sisters (1973).

Miike systematically builds the suspense from the ordinary everyday life to ultimate terror. The first hour of this film moves slowly. Sometimes too slowly as the director builds the characters’ personalities and plot situations with minimal structure and dialog. I fact, I believed that I had misunderstood the poster and that this was a Japanese light romance. That idea was put to rest. The final twenty minutes of this film is unparalleled raw intensity. I had thought that the ear-cutting scene from Reservoir Dogs was one of the most intense ever put of film. This film makes that scene seem like a Disney cartoon. It may be one of the most gruesome ever filmed. The abrupt transition from the previous minimalist state to one of horror is in itself shocking. The scene was so gruesome and straining that I almost had to avert my eyes. Almost.

The fact is that this is not a perfect film, in fact it is far from it. The first hour is slow. SLOW. And the gruesomeness is excruciating to watch. However, if you want to see something on the edge, this is it.

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