Audition (1999) Film Review 5/5

AUDITION is the sort of film that will divide an audience of splatter-hardened gorehounds like no other picture can. In reality, its two pictures in one; this makes it eminently more effective than just about every other horror movie of its ilk, and there aren’t many. However, it isn’t for everyone.

What will make or break this movie for everyone who sees it is whether or not you can get through the first hour or so of the film, because the third reel represents the mother of all changeups from the first two reels. The difference of opinion even on this website about the film is fairly surprising with a pretty fierce split down the middle. Some of us are this film’s biggest supporters and some of us are pretty big detractors (obviously you’ll figure out what side I’m on when you see my rating. And don’t you dare scroll down and spoil the surprise, damn it!). A lot of it depends on the individual person.

The philosophical bent it had about the nature of modern society, the subtle comedy with the father and son, the fact that his secretary totally wanted to wax his pole, and perhaps most importantly, the staggering sense of loneliness and, even, hopelessness that pervades the postmodern world really struck a chord with me. Even in a crowd, Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) seems utterly haunted by his loneliness.

Many years before, his beloved wife Ryoko passed away, leaving the widower with only a few people in his world. One of them is Rie (Toshie Negishi), the housekeeper. The other is his son Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki). Many years later, an innocent comment from his son sets wheels turning in Shigeharu’s head and leading him to his only friend, and business partner, Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) for advice: Shigeharu, the married man turned terminal bachelor by a terminal illness, is finally ready to shake off the ghost of his deceased wife and move on with his life.

What follows is the brilliant plan of Yoshikawa; an audition for a movie, designed to lure pretty young actresses onto the casting couch. Yoshikawa, it seems, has done this several times. No doubt it’s a common ploy even in Hollywood. Shigeharu, however, does not play along for merely physical sensation. Shigeharu is nothing more than a man grappling for love in a heartless, mechanical society, and he give in to Yoshikawa’s sleazy method because he has no other choice.

In a sea of freaks, whores, and weirdoes (just an average walk down Hollywood Boulevard, no doubt), there is one person. A sweet, meek, and absolutely ravishing vision in white with whom Shigeharu had fallen hopelessly in love with simply after reading her biographical essay about why she was trying out for the part. A former ballerina named Asami (Ehi Shiina, a model making her starring debut in spectacular fashion). According to Yoshikawa’s plan, the chosen one can’t get the job, and Asami doesn’t.

She gets something much more important, to both herself, Shigeharu, and the plot: She tried out for a film and won the starring role of a lifetime. A weekend getaway, a proposal, and then the shit really splatters beautifully across the fan.

Maybe I was so drawn into the first hour because I find myself identifying a great deal with a 50-something Japanese widower and television executive. Maybe I’m just fucked up and looking for an outlet. Never can tell with me.

The first hour of the movie is slow. It’s too slow for some people, but I couldn’t help but be drawn in, and a lot of the statements made by the various characters are statements that I confess hit home pretty hard for me, if not at this point in my life, then at various other points in my life. I really identified with Shigeharu’s being alone in a sea full of uncaring people, because I know I’ve been there many times. I really identified with the sleazy methods Yoshikawa uses to help out a friend in need, because I’ve both been the sleazy friend trying to help his people out and the person sleazy friends tried to help out at various points in my life.

The courtship of Asami and Shigeharu is like all courtships, simultaneously beautiful, sweet, funny, awkward, and touching, and watching it unfold so honestly and unflinchingly on the screen, shot in such a direct, no bullshit manner, was practically breathtaking. If you’re not lonely, it definitely can make you feel lonely.

Like 99.9% of all relationships anyone will ever have in this world, there must inevitably be a cruel twist, and a shattering fall from grace. And boy, what a fall it is. I struggle to express it, honestly, because the last thing I want to do is give it away. When Takeshi Miike debuted the film, people came up to him on the street and called him a monster for how the film’s last act played out.

I really can’t say I blame them. The climax of the movie, messy, violent, brutal, and strangely poignant, hit me like a ton of bricks. People do sick, sad, twisted shit in their never-ending pursuit of love and acceptance, and hell hath no fury like a lover scorned, for Sega or otherwise.

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One Response to “Audition (1999) Film Review 5/5”

  1. Flektor Development Blog » Bewitching Fleks Says:

    […] horror movies. From classics like “An American Werewolf in London” to my favorite film, “Audition,” to movies you’ve never heard of, like “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Black Sheep,” […]

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