Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Audition

The verdict: When Harry met Sally and Hallucinated and Sally went Bananas and Tried to Kill Harry

The craziness: Piano wire, nightmarish hallucinations, dismemberment, decapitation, needles where they shouldn't be and a dead puppy.

The rating: 5/10

Folks, I have to say, this box of Asian DVDs is suddenly throwing out some pretty extreme stuff, and there's only one man to blame: Takashi Miike. I had previously said Ichi the Killer was now the second most extreme movie of my brief viewing career. Well, I spoke to soon, because Audition is a new entry in my all-time-crazy-extreme top five, and it's also directed by Mr. Miike. All I can say is, his parents must be proud.

This dark, nightmarish tale of two perspectives is like a David Lynch-inspired bad trip. There are similar themes in here to Ichi, with childhood traumas triggering violent adult behaviour, and pain being inflicted in copious amounts, but 'Audition' is a very different prospect to the comic-book style ultra-violence of Ichi.

For the first hour, things move along at a pace so pedestrian, you wonder why it's considered a horror movie in the first place. Aoyama's (Ryo Ishibashi) wife has passed away seven years ago, and a passing remark from his teenage son prompts the lonely old middle-aged codger to get back on the wagon and start dating again.

When Aoyama discusses this prospect with a movie producer friend Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) the buddy thinks it would be a good idea to advertise a non-existent female role in a movie, and use the audition to choose a girl for Aoyama to go out with...

So, this is not a decision loaded with moral fibre, but if it means he doesn't have to go speed-dating or a traffic light ball then it's a winner, right? Well, Takashi Miike doesn't make things quite so clear cut.

When Aoyama sees Asami's application for the part, he instantly falls for her, and even though the letter accompanying her picture makes her sound like a dangerous serial killer, and her references don't check out, he decides to date her. You sense that things might not go well for this guy, and, well, not to spoil things at all, you'd be right. As I mentioned, for the first hour, the proceedings plod along, until the couple decide to go away for a weekend, and suddenly it's 'Twin Peaks', drunk and in a contrary mood.

I have just watched Audition, and have not yet slept, but I will bet money that the final scenes are going to give me nightmares. Quentin Tarantino caused a global scandal by not even showing an ear getting chopped in a torture scene, and then we have this. Let's just say these scenes are in the same ballpark, but if you thought Reservoir Dogs was shocking, then Audition definitely won't be for you.

So the violence will probably shock most, but the hallucinatory dream sequences leave us in some doubt as to whether Aoyama's actions were as pure as we were lead to believe in the first hour. However, the punishment meted out to him in the last fifteen minutes is, well, a little excessive I reckon.

If you're looking to interpret proceedings, Miike is perhaps extolling the virtues of telling the truth, looking after kids in case they grow up as violent killers, and only dating girls whose references check out. However, I found this movie to be too slow at first, then too weird, then too violent. Where Ichi the Killer was fun, in a strange way, this wasn't half as enjoyable.

Recommended for fans of Manga and David Lynch, this won't be suitable for most, and for this reason it does not get a PCMR recommendation. If you're collecting extreme movie experiences, then you might possibly be drawn to watch Audition for sheer curiosity value. However, if you want to get a little more enjoyment from your ultra-extreme movies, I'd suggest you partake in something else, like 'Oldboy', or 'Ichi the Killer'.


1 comment:

Brendanger said...

Nice review. Very refreshing to see an objective look at films like these - all too often opinions are coloured simply because they're Asian movies.

It is definitely worth a watch, but probably no more than one. The film succeeds because the slow-moving opening acts lull us into a sense of security, safety and leave us totally unprepared for what follows. On re-watching, the climax of the film is constantly on our mind, and so the slow, meandering build-up just feels overlong and dull.

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