Review: AUDITION オーディション (1999) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: AUDITION オーディション (1999)

No stranger to many controversial movies, notorious director Takashi Miike who is famed for his outrageously violent gangster movies take a detour from the usual norm and embarks into horror genre territory. The result is AUDITION, an unnerving horror film that is full of surprises.

Seven years after the death of his beloved Yoko, middle-aged Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) figures it's about time to look for a new wife. A kind of prospective wife who is elegant, smart woman with a decent job and has refined skills like singing or perhaps, playing the piano. In short, he wants someone reminiscent as perfect as Yoko. Since he was disgusted by those loud, vulgar women who gather in cocktail lounges, Shigeharu's friend Yasuhisa (Jun Kunimura), a movie producer, suggesting an ingenious plan: He'll organise a casting call for a young actress to star in a so-called upcoming "production" and there, Shigeharu can sit in on the auditions as a judge to pick his best candidate. Though Shigeharu knows this method is unethical, cruel and yet deceptive but he agrees anyway. When an amount of 30 naive women who undergo the humiliating audition process with no satisfying result, Shigeharu finally falls in for Asami (model Eihi Shiina), a lovely ex-ballerina dressed in white. She's a quiet, elegant and most demure-looking woman that half his age, whom he feels can empathise with his pain; at the age of 18, she was forced to set aside her dream of becoming a ballerina when she suffered a serious back injury. But something about her autobiographical details that doesn't check out: Asami has plenty of ugly scars on her legs and all the people in her life has disappeared mysteriously. Despite Yasuhisa's warning, Shigeharu insisted on giving Asami a shot. After the first blissful date, love-sick Shigeharu can't wait to propose her a marriage. But the more Shigeharu learns further about Asami's life, the more unexpected she turns out to be not exactly the woman he's been looking for. 

Miike begins his picture with a lightweight romantic drama that in an elegantly composed pace and takes painstaking time to develop his characters a better understanding and their course of action. It's admittedly slow-moving and in fact, those with a lack of patience will find this film a complete turn-off. 

But Miike promises that "good thing will come to those who wait" and it shows here: this snail-paced disturbing pace builds its climax bit by bit, while feeding us a couple of effective jolts (especially the one involves the quiet Asami who sits by the phone all day, in her apartment that's basically empty except for a large canvas bag. When Shigeharu finally gives her a call, the phone rings, we can see the cold smile formed on Asami's lips, and suddenly, the bag violently spasms, rocking across the floor). It is that masterful shot sequence that completely changes the light tone before exploding completely into an excess of sadism in which dream and reality intertwine as an ugly nightmare. 

The final 20 minutes is particularly horrifying, so genuinely disturbing that what we come to know about the innocent-looking Asami turns out to be a woman with sadistic nature. Not only the scene is outrageously violent to the point you might have to turn away in sheer disgust, Miike makes sure that the act of in-your-face violence isn't for the sake of show-off but entirely justified to the course of Asami's disturbing nature. 

This one is unlike anything you've seen before and it's a gory experience you won't forget in a long, long period of time.

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