“AUDITION”— Shocking Horror

“Audition”

Shocking Horror

Amos Lassen

Recent widower Shigeharu Aoyama is advised by his son to find a new wife, so he seeks the advice of a colleague having been out of the dating scene for many years. They decide to use their advantage of positions in a film company to stage auditions to find the perfect woman. Interviewing a series of women, Shigeharu becomes enchanted by Asami, a quiet, 24-year-old woman, who is immediately responsive to his charms. But soon things take a very dark and twisted turn as we find that Asami isn’t what she seems to be…

We are pulled into a story that will lead to one of the most harrowing climaxes in cinema history. Japanese director Tashika Miike takes us on twists and turns through delirious editing and shocking visuals for one of the most depraved nightmares of all time!

Miike is a dangerous talent whose kinetic, sadomasochistic splatter films add up to more than the sum of their bloody viscera. Those filmgoers who run out of “Audition” in disgust need to know that this is actually more restrained than usual by Miike’s standards. His restraint in the first half pays dividends in the second, when the story turns in on itself and the undercurrents that were once contained by social politeness explode with horrific intensity and eroticism. Audition begins with what looks like a sick joke. In a soft-focus, sentimental scene, an adorable little boy carries flowers to his dying mother’s bedside, where father Ryo Ishibashi waits helplessly for the impending end to life.

We then go forward some seven years later to an austere premise where the father of an adolescent, Ishibashi is pressured by his son (Tetsu Sawaki) to find a new wife, but he worries that he’ll never find just the right person to replace the boy’s mother. When he and a colleague at his video-production house hold a phony actress audition for a nonexistent project, Ishibashi is immediately drawn to Eihi Shiina, a prim, opaquely beautiful young woman with a mysterious past. There are subtle, unnerving early suggestions that things are not quite what they seem; even the mild-mannered Ishibashi behaves with warning signs. The film is known as a “gearshift” movie, the term for a story that starts in one direction and then turns to head in another. While the film’s genre classification alone indicates where it’s heading, the shift surprises us because it’s not just visceral, but psychological, with feminist turns.  

Miike devilishly sets up a discordant relationship between commerce and affection when a filmmaker, Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), uses an audition as a way of finding love. His cohort, Yasuhisa (Jun Kunimura), is concerned with the slump in the motion picture industry and advises Aoyama that only the fittest will survive: His deceased wife’s replacement should be good but not necessarily talented. (For him, only good girls can be good wives while only talented girls can shoot a movie.) The audition is then seen as a bridge between fantasy and reality—a successful experiment (or so it seems), for Asami (Eihi Shiina) appears to embody Aoyama’s every ideal. Asami makes Yashuhisa uneasy: She’s gentle and graceful, but the package is “too easy.” Miike’s static long shots and symbolic use of color making the audition itself becomes look at stately naïveté.  Miike’s torture mechanism is very much based on the premise that performance is crucial to the freeing of the soul, and just as Asami’s rage is as much a product of Freudian psychosexual repression, so too does it express a need to negate her passivity. The twists and turns blur the film’s hallucinogenic rhythms. Asami yearns to be an actress in real life. The problem, is that what is real is now a matter of opinion.

Blu Ray Special Edition Contents include:

  Brand new 2K restoration of original vault elements

  Original 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio

  Optional English subtitles

  Audio commentary with director Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan

  Brand new commentary by Miike biographer Tom Mes examining the film and its source novel

  Introduction by Miike

  Ties that Bind A brand new interview with Takashi Miike

  Interviews with stars Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Renji Ishibashi and Ren Osugi

  Damaged Romance: An appreciation by Japanese cinema historian Tony Rayns

  Trailers

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

  FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel

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