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Shy, quiet, very tentative, dressed in virginal white, Asami is a former ballerina, forced to give up her dream due to an injury, and Shigeharu is smitten.... But, all is not what it seems and holes begin to appear in Asami's story. At first, a hesitant but happy, Shigeharu casually pries into these discrepancies and is so enamoured with her that he overlooks the odd questions about her supposed workplace, her school, where she lives, and the disappearances of men she has mentioned... Asami's exterior hides something. She sits in her apartment, waiting for the phone to ring. There is something in a sack in the corner. And, in the end, Shigeharu falls into her deadly trap- a trap far worse than his dishonest audition that started the, soon to be a nightmare, affair.
If you thought dating was scary.... you have no idea. Basically that is the premise, a lonely hearts worst nightmare. You may think you know someone. You may fall so head over heels you don't see the warning sings. You may let someone get too close, and pay a difficult price for it... When you first meet someone and feel an attraction, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which leads to a basic overdrive of euphoria in people. Its why those first few months of dating are usually so memorable and a roller coaster ride on Cloud 9. Its also a good reason for, why, when the hormone starts to fade, sometimes only then do you realize certain things, perhaps annoying things, about your partner. Usually people say, "You changed", but in reality, you were probably so swooning with hormones and affection you just didn't notice. Well, imagine the same scenario, only you fell into the trap of a complete psychopath.
But it also about much more than that. It is about the objectification of women, the demands put upon them by men, whether it be in how they should look, to how they should behave, to what they should achieve. In Fatal Attraction, sure Michael Douglas is a scumbag, but Glenn Close is so crazy, the movie just has to have the evil psycho woman dead in the end and Douglas and his wife safe in each others arms. Whereas, Audition paints a different, less obvious picture. Shigeharu is a sympathetic character. While dishonest in his methods searching for a wife, he is a man who is coming out of a long period of mourning and seemingly so nervous about dating, that the audition process sounds like a good icebreaker. Likewise, Asami is clearly (in a way that is left somewhat ambiguous) the product of some kind of emotional and physical torture as well. Neither one of them are what they appear to be- Shigeharu not looking for an actress but a subservient, perfect wife- Asami not looking for a job or a kind mate but a victim. Shigeharu is the prototypical Japanese male, and Asami is the symbolic result of the years of degradation of Japanese females, exacting torturous revenge on the clueless male. It is the intelligent, reverse gender answer to torture films like the Japanese Guinea Pig series.
Takashi Miike's Audition (Odishon, 1999) is a firecracker horror film. That is, the film is basically one long slow burn until an explosive ending. Its a bonbon wrapped until its the size of a basketball, it takes an hour and twenty minutes to unwrap it to get to the candy. It is a good 30-40 mins before we even get to Asami and the audition. Sure there are little shocks here and there, but the real horror and mystery aren't revealed until the very end; its all about unraveling to the finale. And, this setup has its good points and its bad points. Fans of such hyperactive horrors as BrainDead (aka Dead Alive) will probably find the pacing bothersome. In making the film a slow burn, it drags out the unease, Miike manages to take his time and add layer upon layer of dread that will probably leave you itching in your seat, anticipating the horrible things to come. And then, after all that waiting, not only do we get the horrific payoff, but a plot payoff as well, giving a grand flashback?/imagining? of the possible reasons behind Asami's actions. And then, its over... While the ending has to be one of the better horror endings, it also makes re-watching the film a little drier. Even though the film concludes with some ambiguousness, once you've sat through that first, fresh time, repeat viewing isn't quite the same. When I first saw Audition in the theater this winter, I was squirming in my seat, filled with dread, and then blown away by the ending. But upon a second viewing, all the thrill was gone. There aren't any real surprises to rediscover and its ingenuity is only impressive on that first viewing. Since you know where its headed, it makes the trip longer and more of a chore to sit through.
Auditon is probably Miike's most accessible work. His reputation as an outlandish, interesting filmmaker began with his yakuza films Fudoh and Dead or Alive 1 & 2, and recent works like Ichi the Killer, Audition, and Visitor Q, have cemented Miike as one of the great bizarre, outlandish, risk taking voices in cinema.
The DVD: Region 3 Universe DVD.
Picture- Widescreen. Picture is very soft and contrast leans towards more grays than deep blacks, lessening the details considerably. The color scheme has a warm (brown and orange-red) colors dominating it, tanning fleshtones. The print I saw in the theater was one of the dirtiest film prints I've seen in a long time, and the DVD transfer is fairly dirty too, with some worn blur spots. Overall, it is extremely dull and disappointing, especially considering the films only a few years old. While Asian imports are always a mixed bag, sometimes great, usually flawed but fine, this one has a few too many minuses for my taste. Still, it beats a bootleg.
Sound- Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese with optional English and Chinese (traditional and simplified) subtitles. This was a different sub translation than I saw in the theater, and one that was a little awkward. My memory can't recall the specific details, but the Universe sub translation just didn't have the same feel, some phrases were off and confusing. The audio isn't a dynamic mix, but gets the job done with no huge distortions
Extras- 9 Chapters--- Trailer--- thats it.
Conclusion- Well, the transfer is not really that great. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg, but I think the movie has a questionable rewatchability factor, so, combining that with a poor transfer I'll have to give it a hesitant recommendation. Its a good rental for the curious. If you're already a die-hard Miike nut, it is a decent enough buy, but a better transfer would be welcome... There is a PAL version which I've read is an equally poor/wishy-washy transfer. There is also a Region One version that should offer an alternative for those non-all region capable.