Audition

I've always had mixed feelings when it comes to Asian horror cinema. While some of the stuff can be really good, other entries can be downright awful. Thankfully, though, Miike's Audition proves to be an atmospheric, dark, revolting, and enveloping horror movie. Before you go and watch this, however, it should be noted that Takashi Miike's films can go very far in terms of the grotesque. In this film alone, we see men eating vomit, long sequences of torture, along with other unsettling images. If you have a strong stomach, or tolerance for that matter, then Audition shouldn't be too hard to watch.

In the film, we follow a lonely widower by the name of Shigeharu Aoyama. Urged by his friends and his 17-year old son, Aoyama eventually decides that he does want to begin dating women again. However, the old man seems to have lost his touch and doesn't know exactly how to approach the matter. Yoshikawa, Aoyama's friend and a film producer, soon comes up with a plan to hold a mock-audition, in which young and beautiful women can audition for the "part" of Aoyama's wife, but the women will be under the impression that they're auditioning for a new film. With this logic in mind, the finalist contestant should be Aoyama's ideal mate. It doesn't take long before Aoyama takes a liking to one of the girls, Asami Yamazaki, and begins to pursue her outside of the studio. What Aoyama doesn't know, however, is that there's much more to Asami than meets the eye...

Surprisingly, Audition is a very character-orientated film. We're given so much time with Aoyama, Yoshikawa, and the rest of the crew that it's easy to fall in loe with these characters. They're unique, interesting, and are quite competent (unlike other characters in modern horror films). The film moves at a delicate pace for the first half of the film, and it's in this half that we begin to care for these characters - nuisances and all. What Aoyama's doing may be dishonest, but we're so attached to his character that it's easy to overlook his shortcomings. We see him in daily life - at work, with his son, at the bar, etc. - and it's for that reason we become so connected with this film's protagonist. All of the other characters are interesting as well, and people like Yoshikawa provide some nice comic relief during the suspense that follows.

It should be noted, however, that the first half of the film is very, very different from the second half of the film. The first half was somewhat reminiscent of a Paul Thomas Anderson film, what with the focus on character and the slow-moving, yet utterly satisfying, pacing. Halfway, however, the film picks the pace up to a much faster speed, and I was actually a bit disappointed by this. Though it does get some events moving, it lacks the character-focus that the first half had. Instead, the film shifts to a more storyline-orientated focus, and the characters are put on the backburner for the sake of plot events. The story's interesting and all, but it was disappointing to see such a change in direction during the film.

Moving on, I have to say that the film's visuals are quite nice. They're not amazing, but the camerawork really stands out in a few sequences. For instance, there's a shot of Asami waiting for Aoyama to call her at her apartment. This isn't too weird, as some people tend to do this, but we later see that Asami has fallen asleep in the exact same position she was in while waiting for the phone call...over four hours ago. Then, when Aoyama does call, we see Asami slowly smile and lift her head - and then a bag in the room begins to violently shake. The aesthetics of that scene and the creepy factor behind it are lingering images in the film, and it's that intense lingering that separates Audition from most horror movies.

That said, though, I did think the ending was a bit anticlimactic. We had all of this great build-up in the first half, some decent build-up in the second half, and the last 15 minutes - aka the infamous torture scene - is left to be the "climatic conclusion". Maybe I've just gotten tired of torture porn (ala Saw, but this sequence really ddin't do anything for me. If you're easily grossed out, it might do something for you, but it's otherwise just 15 minutes of screaming and giggly schoolgirl laughter.

Audition begins as a great psychological thriller/character study that slowly brings its audience in with its superb slow pacing. The second half suffers, however, once the shift on character has changed to the shift of getting from "Point A" to "Point B". Also, the ending really does leave something to be desired. It's ultimately flawed, but the film's still really good for what it does right and the lingering images of Asami's apartment should stay with the viewer for quite some time.





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