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Movies E.C. McMullen Jr. Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
Audition
IT HELPS
TIP JAR
AUDITION - 1999
USA Release: May 7, 2002
Basara Pictures, AFDF, Creators Company Connection, Omega Project
Rated: Australia: M / Finland: K-18 / Germany: 16 / Sweden: 15 / U.K.: 18 / USA : PG-13 (Re-rated)

A child walks down a hospital hall, carrying a gift that asks for his Mother to get well.

A man sits in a hospital room as doctors go about their duties, but nothing they do can stop him from watching his wife die.

The child enters the room and understands that his gift is too late.

Years pass and the boy, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki), grows up. One day he looks at his father and says,

"You look dispirited, you should remarry."

The father, Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi: G@ME, MOON CHILD, THE GRUDGE, TRAPPED ASHES, THE GRUDGE 2) glumly considers his son's advice. He doesn't want a woman his own age or just a few years younger. Shigeharu doesn't even recognize the obvious yearning his own secretary feels for him. Shigeharu wants a woman who would be about the same age his wife was when she died. He wonders if he can reset his life again.

When Mr. Aoyama looks at young people he's put off. He can't understand their pleasures. Not just because he's looking at a different generation, but because he's a much older man whose pleasures have matured. How can he possibly find a woman in the modern generation who can relate to his generation and more, his age?

To help him find not just a wife, but love, his good friend and movie producer, Yoshikawa (Jun Kinemura: KILL BILL VOL. 1, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS), has an idea.

Why not hold auditions?

Yoshikawa needs to hold auditions anyway and thousands of girls may show up. He'll let Shigeharu sit in on one. Yoshi will find his lead and Aoyama may find his love. It's unlikely that they'll be the same girl.

Soon photos and resumes are pouring in for the upcoming audition and Shigeharu looks through them all. It's a tedious process, but eventually his attention is drawn to a woman named Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina: SKY HIGH, TOKYO GORE POLICE, VAMPIRE GIRL vs FRANKENSTEIN GIRL). Aoyama finds himself attracted to both her photo and her resume, which is largely nothing but how she feels about the role and what she thinks of the character. He puts her in the pile for the audition.

"Living is another way of reaching death," she writes. "That's why I want to try out for this role." To a widower who fell into the embrace of crippling grief for so many years, such simple words are eloquent.

The day of the audition arrives and Shigeharu feels like a criminal, as if he's doing something dishonest. The audition for a movie role is real but he frets about his ulterior motive.

When Aoyama finally interviews Asami, he is smitten with her. Yoshikawa, undamaged by years of self-inflicted loneliness and loss, feels entirely different. There's something about Asami that creeps him right out.

That night, Shigeharu Aoyama feels the incomplete emptiness of his life more than ever. His son has a girlfriend and is spending more time with her, away from Pop. Reluctant, yet struggling to rid himself of depression, he calls Asami. Barely containing his excitement, he arranges a date with her.

AuditionNo sooner does he hang up in personal victory than Yoshikawa calls. He couldn't help himself, he started investigating Asami through her references. What he discovered doesn't send up a red flag, but it is a bit unsettling.

Aoyama doesn't care anymore, he's in love.

Everything about Asami intoxicates Shigeharu. Her natural prettiness, her introverted, shy nature. Her seeming lack of friends only serves to make Aoyama feel more protective of her.

Years of self-induced torment has Shigeharu seeing things and he sees a soft, romanticized version of his wife when he looks at Asami.

Her talk of death only reminds Aoyama of his own loss and he wants to heal Asami wounds as well as his own. Shigeharu finds her beautiful, classy, and obedient, all the traits that fit with his generation's idea of ideal.

Meanwhile, all of her talk of death and her untraceable past only serves to further unsettle Yoshikawa and he worries for his friend. This young woman is wrong somehow. He doesn't know how exactly, but something isn't right. But it's too late: Shigeharu Aoyama is fully lovestruck and unreachable.

TRIVIA

So why didn't this movie do so much better in U.S. art house theaters?

I blame the movie trailer - which unbelievably stupid! - reveals every jump, every scare, and even the god damn ending!

Even the damn poster gives too much away!

At one hour and 55 minutes, Director Takashi Miike (Masters of Horror: IMPRINT) unfolds AUDITION at precisely the right pace. Renown among gorehounds for movies that seemingly make you actually FEEL the pain inflicted on its characters, Miike achieves this by first getting his audience thoroughly involved in his characters.

The pace is leisurely.

Shigeharu's an experienced adult man re-awakening to the youthful feelings of foolishness as love, its passions and fears re-enter his world.

He gives us brief peeks into Asami's dead puppet life: 30 minutes in, there is a creepy scene of Asami and her world. It is well lit, mundane, and she is there still as a doll, with common furniture and a full laundry bag laying on the floor. It all seems so meticulously arranged to look like life, while giving the impression of being unlived. As if Asami is whiling her time away in someone else's abandoned home.

Later, we see the same scene again and, without a single drip of gore, without a second of anything happening that would earn a rating higher than a G, Takashi pulls something so breathtakingly unexpected that the movie gets its first What the Hell Was THAT?!? moment. From then on, this riveting roller coaster ride is still calmly clackety-clacking up the hill.

Only now you are aware of the terrifying drop inexorably approaching.

Hell yeah that moment is a jump!

And unlike some silly ass Hollywood cat jump, shoulder grab, or Shadow Bang past the frame, this one is real, earned, and it underlines a hideous deadly meaning to everything that comes after.

Mr. Shigeharu Aoyama is being swallowed alive and he doesn't know it.

AUDITION slowly builds to an emotional and visceral gut punch of an ending. I saw it coming, but by the time I realized how horrific it would be, I couldn't look away.

You haven't seen Takashi Miike's AUDITION? Holy crap! If you like scary, unnerving movies, you GOTTA see AUDITION! Among the Masters of Horror, Takashi Miike is a grand master!

5 Shriek Girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.

Audition (1999) on IMDb
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