Wednesday, January 27, 2010

tm Does the QT 20 Part 11: Audition

NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MEGA-SPOILERS

Audition (aka Ôdishon; dir. Takashi Miike – 1999)

Reading about this movie in advance of watching it, I was prepared to be grossed out, what with mention of barf bags being handed out at some screenings, people being sick in movie foyers, etc. While this movie is disturbing but c’mon - people, if you’re renting movies from Gen X, you’ve probably seen worse...

Many years after a movie producer’s wife dies, he decides to find a new wife. Unsure of how to proceed, a friend arranges a semi-bogus audition for a movie roll. The widowed producer sits in, evaluating the women as they come in. He finds one woman to his liking and he approaches her after the audition. They go out for a few dates and then, without warning, she disappears. The producer then attempts to track the elusive woman.

The movie is a psychological drama – the producer tries to track down the mysterious woman and the more he finds out about her, the weirder psycho-bitch she turns out to be. But yet the producer pursues, a train stuck on the tracks. The plot moves along in a controlled and measured pace, Ryo Ishibashi as the producer bring some nice dramatic chops to the movie and Eihi Shiina as the female protagonist does a nice job of projecting a quiet/scary/unhinged vibe.

Yes, the last 20 minutes are a little hard to take – the bulk of it being a torture scene involving an immobile captive being subjected to super-long acupuncture needles and a garrotte to an extremity – but the pain-induced flashbacks by the captive does provide some insight into the plot. Not that I’m trying to make excuses for this movie or anything like that...

tm sez: 6/10

1 comment:

madkevin said...

I, on the other hand, will HAPPILY make excuses for Audition.

Takeshi Miike is like the idiot savant of cinema. For everything he's done that is stone cold brilliant (like the opening ten minutes and closing five minutes of DEAD OR ALIVE) there's an equal if not greater amount of terrible, terrible crap (like the REST of DEAD OR ALIVE.) It's like he suffers from some sort of weird ADD, where he either doesn't notice or doesn't care that individual scenes in his movies don't match up tonally with anything else. But every now and again you get these insane flashes of genius that trick you into thinking he's just TOYING with you and can really make an awesome movie beginning-to-end if he wanted.

Audition is that movie.* There's a tonal shift, but it happens at an important time in the movie's structure. In many ways, the entire first hour is a crazy but masterful misdirect, allowing you to fully sink into the rhythm and feel of the movie before pulling the rug out from under you.

Crucially, though, the switcheroo isn't done just for laughs; it's absolutely central to the theme of the movie. While the individual protagonist may not strictly deserve what happens to him, as a stand-in for the inherent and systematic sexism of modern Japanese society he kinda sorta does. It's a feminist horror film, made by an insane person.

* It's also a movie that is improved immeasurably by not knowing anything about it, but if you've read this far tm's review already spoiled it, so... whoops.