Audition (Japan, 1999)

Audition Poster 1Directed by: Takashi Miike. Having been acquainted with the reputation of Takashi Miike a few years ago, I checked out 13 Assassins, one of his more straightforward films (a samurai flick with amped-up gore and over-the-top fight scenes). But I knew that Miike’s oeuvre tapped into some legit, off-the-charts, squeamish “extreme” cinema stuff that I usually avoid for the same reason that I usually avoid horror films. For readers of the site, you might have noticed the glaring omission of any examples of that entire genre, and it’s because I don’t really care for the feeling of being scared. That being said, this isn’t exactly “horror”, but it’s unsettling as fuck. And to be fair, I really do appreciate seeing a film that avoids the familiar Hollywood sentiments, the safe and predictable ideology underpinning everything. I went the entire movie in fear that the absolute worst would happen to this guy, because I didn’t know what the moral landscape was. Would the film punish him for searching for a young, attractive wife after years as a widower?  Would the film punish him for being so weird about it, hosting an audition, with the lying and the objectification inherent in that? Like all great suspense films, the protagonist’s curiosity stands in for the viewers caution—he goes to investigate, he sees the old man with no feet, he goes deeper and deeper into her web. The cutaway scenes with her sitting by the phone, hair covering her face, and the bag with a person in it, all of that shit seems like it could be from another movie, some alternate reality from the depths of the imagination’s worst fears, and I was never quite sure that the film wasn’t going in some kind of alternate-consciousness direction. In fact, when it was over, and the plot wrapped up in a surprisingly conventional way—the evil was defeated, the family unit restored—that was the most surprising part of the film. But again, even in providing us with the safe ending, the film never cops out—where Hollywood would bend over backwards to make sure that we felt like everything was safe and peaceful in the world after this troubling ordeal (off the top of my head, Panic Room, but also almost every other Hollywood film, sometimes horror too), this film, and a lot of non-Hollywood stuff in particular, can give us a “happy” ending that leaves us unsettled, like something awful has happened from which we never be the same. Sure, the crazy killer lady was killed, but the father lost his foot, and he’s surely traumatized from this, their family forever changed. You don’t get the sense that it’s all going to come out in the wash—he had his foot cut off! And ultimately, the film in no way accounts for the presence of this senseless sadistic violence in the world. It kind of gives her a bit of motivation in the form of back story, pointing to childhood abuse, but the film just puts her there as the embodiment of careless sadism, as if she were some supernatural demon who thrives on human misery. And perhaps like all horror, what makes it especially horrifying is the element that chance played into it, how the guy chose her, and that fateful day when he phones her to make the connection. This is a really disturbing film, but I think I got enough of a bang out of it to check out some of his other stuff, but maybe not for a little while.

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One response to “Audition (Japan, 1999)

  1. Pingback: Sanjuro (Japan, 1962) | Offhand Reviews·

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