[5.9/10] What the fuck did I just watch?
I’m not sure I have ever seen a movie that spent so much of its runtime in a state of utter, indulgent doldrums, only to break into some mindfuck-worthy, elliptical horror that almost makes the overextended windup feel worth it, only to devolve into disturbing torture porn for the bulk of its final bow.
What the hell is this movie? It is Hard Candy on crack. It is You’ve Got Mail by way of David Lynch. It is Hostel for the #MeToo set. Audition is a singular vision -- I have to give it that -- but I don’t know if that makes it any good.
There’s a roughly fifteen minute stretch of the film that is utterly transcendent horror. When Asami poisons Aoyama’s liquor, and what follows is a nightmare-like series of epiphanies and terrors that bleed into one another, Audition finds a distinctive gear and a signature set of sequences. There is more genuine ominousness and unnerving images in the simple, haunting collages of the abuse Asami’s suffered, the women in Aoyama’s life, and place where the two lives come together, then in all of the rest of the film combined. The editing, the lurid colors, the graphic but tasteful framing of it all, sticks with you, in a way that only the cinematic form can conjure.
But the hour and change that precedes it is partly some weird, vaguely misogynistic romcom, and half a slow-moving succubus-type build. And neither is particularly compelling.
The first part of the movie sees Aoyama agreeing to “audition” a new wife after the death of the mother of his son. It’s the sort of premise that, in other hands, could turn out like a Julia Roberts-style meetcute-a-palooza. But after an overextended bit of throat-clearing, Aoyama starts obsessively courting Asami, who is impossibly fawning and pliant. The best you can say is that Audition plants the seeds for its later creepiness explosion here, but it’s a sea of stilted, boring conversations and alien interactions to get to that point. Sometimes, the quality direction and framing carries the day in haunting visuals or off-color scenes, but more often than not, endless setups will leave you checking your watch.
But once it’s revealed (more or less) that Asami is a psychopath who, through that nightmare sequence, is implied to have murdered scores of people who’ve crossed her, the film stops being scary and just becomes unpleasant. The extended scene of her torturing Aoyama quickly breaches the damn of “stark to make the point” and just starts to feel like suffering for suffering’s sake. Sure, there is a legitimate creepiness to Asami’s cutesy cries of “deeper, deeper” as she pierces Aoyama’s skin, and a disquieting layer of sound design that permeates your brain as she lops off his foot with a wire saw.
But after a certain amount of time, Audition ceases to be an exercise in forcing the audience to confront this horror and begins to be an effort to rub our noses in it. The torture scene is undeniably visceral, but soon feels indulgent and even exploitive in its way, like someone’s fetish brought to life.
Through all this, Audition remains remarkably opaque, both in terms of what’s really happening and what the point of all this is. The film ultimately feels like a twisted revenge picture, one that shows Asami suffering severe abuse as a child, ending up mentally disturbed by it and unable to connect with others on a sane level because of it, and enacting vengeance on anyone and everyone (mostly men) who treat her as less than a complete end unto herself. In some ways, it feels like a prescient, horror-dripped take on #TimesUp, the ghosts of past abuses and misogyny past emerging to let those who enacted both reap what they’ve sown.
It also traffics in scenes of dismissive, objectifying men treating to the women in life like objects, conquests, pursuing them like conquests, or ignoring the ones that don’t fit into certain preferred boxes. Part of Aoyama’s fate feels undeserved on the movie’s terms, because Asami seems to turn on him because of his attachment to his dead wife and to his son, perfectly reasonable affections to maintain. But part of it feels like a karmic punishment for his turning the search for a new partner into a bizarre charade (let’s hope Asami never sees The Bachelor), for treating his secretary and housekeeper as though they barely exist, and for seemingly passing on this same sort of hounddog mentality to the next generation.
The problem with all of this is that none of these characters are particularly worth caring about. I’m willing to provide some leeway for cultural differences, but mostly they feel like caricatures, plastic figures that Takashi Miike can move around his sets but without much of an inner life. They exist to serve the story rather than the other way around. There’s a few meaningful stares, and a freaky upturned corner of the mouth for Asami that’s the most frightening thing in the whole film, but otherwise most of the movie amounts to a detached, almost perfunctory romantic entanglement whose central figures seem too removed, and whose descent into horror is too languid to make much of a difference.
When it reaches that more liminal set of sequences and halfway puts its cards on the table, Audition is a sight to behold. There, Miike gets at something more elemental, in the fractured picture of trauma he and his team paint, in the dreamlike interchangeability of the women in Aoyama’s life that delivers the theme better than anything else, and the raw, bizarre disturbia of Asami’s traps, victims, and pathos-ridden existence.
It’s just not worth it to suffer through the other ninety-nine minutes of go-nowhere interactions or fetishistic cruelty on display to be able to appreciate that. There’s something to be said for a good old fashioned mindscrew, but the best brain-bending stories, on the page and on the screen, are interesting and not just baffling, let alone so indulgently brutal. It’s okay to walk away from a well-made film and wonder what exactly it is you just watched. It’s not okay to walk away wondering why you bothered to watch something so flat, jumbled, and ultimately cruel at all.
Yawn, yawn, yawn ... snore ... fitful sleep ...
Take the horror & thriller tags from this movie because it is neither of those things.I can't believe I sat through the entire thing, I was soooo bored with it, I would not recommend this to anyone.
Kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri...
Eihi Shiina is creepy as Asami Yamazaki. One of the most terrifying woman in a film I've ever seen!
Anyway, I didn't mind the slow pace of this film. It led me to a false sense of security, what could go wrong, what will happen, what has Takashi Miike in store for us. I was relaxing, drinking my morning milk until suddenly that freaking sack moved and almost spilled my milk. Such a great jump scare. And damn, what she was hiding in that sack! Worst pet ever!
Like almost nothing in horror films give me shivers anymore, not really, but damn those needles? Can't stand to watch that somehow! And yes, Asami, you are right,that wire did cut through meat and bone easily.
I agree with every review here that Audition is a film you need to watch without knowing anything beforehand. It is a amazing slowly paced film with two great performances and amazing direction by Miike!
Kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri!
I think Asamy wanted the relationship to work—which explains the "You are the first one who is really warmhearted and tries to accept me." monologue re-appearance at the end—, but when she snuck into Aoyama's house and saw his wife's picture still erect on his desk, she realized he was lying when he said he will only love her; thus, her PTSD kicked in and, fueled by her tortured past, she started setting up her revenge.
It's worth it to keep in mind that lust, fused with torture and violence, is the only form of intimacy she knows so, when she has full control, and in the absence of lust, torture and violence are all that is left.
I think Aoyama's nightmare was fueled by many things:
His guilt over (1) remarrying after his wife's death (manifested in turning away the picture of his wife when he was looking at the CVs), (2) ditching his employee after sleeping with her, and ignoring her attempts to get him to commit to a serious relationship, (3) agreeing to stage the fake audition, which, in his words, made him "feel like a criminal", and (4) lying about not loving anyone but Asamy because he still has feelings for his wife.
His fear of (1) committing to a serious relationship for the first time in years, (2) Yoshikawa's warnings, and (3) Asamy's obscure and troubled past.
His son's remark that Asamy is almost his age might have been the catalyst for the son's girlfriend appearance in the nightmare.
I think there are two endings: (1) Aoyama's nightmare passes, and life goes on, and (2) it is not really a nightmare, and Asamy got her revenge, not only against Aoyama, but against every man who wronged her.
Finally, I think every horrific thing that went on up until the beginning of the final torture scene only happened in Aoyama's imagination; a bunch of narratives that his brain invented and weaved together as a result of his fears. It is possible that Asamy's life followed a similar path, but not necessarily what Aoyama imagined in his head.
I wasn't frightened by the film, but I was amused throughout, and left in awe when it was over. This is an excellent, genre-defying, Takashi Miike film. I can't really think of any sequence that dragged, or anything that went wrong. The cinematography, in particular, was pitch-perfect in every beat—in general, it's very easy to tell there is an auteur who knows what he's doing, and why, behind the camera.
10/10 would recommend, and watch again if an opportunity presents itself.
Too little and quick terror for so much fame. Not so good as I imagined.
Lenta y aburrida. No me ha gustado en absoluto.
Only pain and suffering will make you realize who you are.
Only pain and suffering will make you realize who you are.