Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weeks Too Late: Guest Review - RobotMatt Dissects Audition

Aside:  Doomwench, here.  Wren is off traipsing through a field of gillyflowers, but she was thoughtful enough to twist Matt's arm into filling in for her.  So please enjoy this lovely guest review about a not-very-lovely movie (I've actually seen this one so I know what I'm talking about!).

Weeks Too Late: Audition
Directed by Takashi Miike and written by Daisuke Tengan based on a novel by Ryû Murakami

Introduction and Preconceptions:

Well, once again, I've been asked to write some sort of review for Girl On Book Action, despite a complete lack of the necessary genitalia. I chose the Japanese horror film, Audition, a movie I've been meaning to watch since it came out in 1999. I'd heard that the film was creepy, gory and genuinely unsettling, especially if you are sensitive about your eyes. It's been my quest over the last ten years or so to find horror media that actually scares or, at the very least, makes me uncomfortable. You watch enough people get hacked to pieces and it starts to lose its punch. My hope was that Audition would do the trick.

General Review: For the most part, I enjoyed Audition. The opening is too slow a burn for my tastes, as we are introduced to Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), his son Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki ) and his friend, film producer Yasuhisa (Jun Kunimura ).

I initially had real trouble warming up to Aoyama. His plan to use Yasuhisa's upcoming film to audition women to be his bride is both creepy and insulting. He has a close relationship with his son, but the boy doesn't seem to be a great champion of women's rights either. When Aoyama  finally meets Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina ), a former ballet dancer, he is instantly smitten. He calls her everything he is looking for (specifically beautiful, classy and obedient. Nice.), but Yasuhisa has some misgivings. A lot of Asami's resume doesn't add up and some of the people she's worked with have disappeared. Shiina does an amazing job as Asami. We get very few hints as to what she is really about and when the big reveal in her apartment comes, it is genuinely surprising, even if you, like I, knew that she was up to something. Asami spends most of the film quietly docile, her head down. It's only at the end of the movie when the blood starts flowing, that she becomes vibrant and excited. It's too bad for Aoyama that the source of her giddy excitement is from enthusiastically sawing off his foot with a length of piano wire.

People who have seen this movie talk a lot about the last twenty minutes, as Asami tortures Aoyama, but this is only a small part of an almost two hour film. Audition takes a gradual approach to horror, which is something I genuinely appreciate in a movie. Jumping straight into the action is fine for a lot of horror flicks, but a thriller like Audition benefits from getting all of its ducks in a row before it starts chopping off their bills. That having been said, I found the build in Audition too gradual. Much of the time feels like it's being spent setting up the audition, running through applicants and Aoyama and Asami dating.

The movie can also feel very confusing. Towards the end of the film, Aoyama is poisoned and begins hallucinating about Asami's past. How this actually  happens was not clear to me, although it allows us to actually experience Asami's history, while putting Aoyama right in the middle of the action.

As far as scariness goes, I can see why Audition is ranked so highly on lists of great horror flicks. The acts Asami commits are pretty disgusting and certainly not for the squeamish, but it's Asami herself that's really unpleasant. The joy she's clearly feeling as she slowly plunges a steel acupuncture needle in Aoyama's eye. The giddiness with which she saws off his foot. Watching this beautiful girl revel in these hideous acts is the most horrific thing in the movie.
If you can make it through (and you would be in the minority. The film had plenty of walk-outs when it was screened), Audition is certainly worth your time. It's not perfect, nor did I feel much in the way of actual fear when I was watching it, but it's an excellent horror story and well-acted.

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