Audition (1999) (R)

This review contains SPOILERS!
I must say that I almost wish I didn't know the turn "Audition" makes before I saw it...almost. For much of the movie, in fact, the overwhelming majority of it, there is a sense of happiness with just the slightest hesitancy. That inkling, the premonition if you will, that something may get ugly is thrown wide open for the last twenty or so minutes of the movie. It becomes a bona fide freak show.
Perhaps what doesn't work for "Audition" is how slow it is to get moving—I could feel this way because I knew something bad was going to happen so for the entire movie I was worrying.
The movie opens as a drama, with the death of the maternal figure. Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is the husband and father. He grieves his wife's loss and raises his son by himself.
Seven years after the death of his wife, he has turned into a workaholic and a person who isn't that fun. Under the somewhat teasing instruction of his son, he decides that he will start looking for love again. But it has been a while since he's been in the dating pool, yet, as always, there seems to be an abundance of fish in the sea (forgive the metaphors).
His friend hatches a scheme. They will hold auditions for potential dates. Masquerading as a film studio looking for actresses, they get hundreds of girls to send in their resumes with cover shots and Aoyama pours over them. He is told that he gets to pick thirty. He becomes obsessed with a girl named Asami (Eihi Shiina) who is almost too demure. She doesn't impress Aoyama's friend; but that doesn't matter to him. She is the apple of his eyes, consider the auditions closed.
Somewhere in this first hour, there is a deadly apprehension that slowly creeps in. It manages to sink beneath your skin, exemplified by the way that Asami's neck bones jut out of her nap as she hunches over in her room, waiting for a phone call.
Part of the movie is what we do in our personal lives when no one is watching, and the other part of the film is the facade that we wear when we are out in public.
For being a film with only four or so characters, "Audition" meanders too much with how it sets up everybody. There is a brief plot stealing tangent that suggests that Aoyama's secretary is in love with him. Perhaps then the movie is about being content with what you have; but I somehow doubt it.
As "Fatal Attraction "did, "Audition" reaffirms the thought that a woman is the most dangerous and vile creature imaginable. A woman spurned would be an unrestrained force of nature. Unlike the Glenn Close movie, "Audition" never makes it enjoyable to see the chase and the evasion. It's a movie that is almost too unbearable to see and leaves you feeling cold, unloved, and freaked out.
The sadistic way that bodies are tortured and cut apart, rarely leaving anything to the imagination of the viewer, is a little hard to choke down. I get the feeling that "Audition" was made just because it could.
Yet amidst the horror, "Audition" holds its own as a cerebral, mind-trick movie. You are never quite certain if everything you are seeing is the truth and some characters make comments about dreams. The way that one scene melts into another and characters replace one another, history backtracks and time distends, it's all so ambitious; yet it never quite feels perfected.
The movie makes a large stylistic jump from its first part to its second. For much of the beginning (in fact, the majority) of the movie, it is shot with long static shots. Wide angels, nothing fancy. When it changes to shaky cam and rapid cuts, it's a bit off-putting.
"Audition" is creepy, but it is also fascinating to a certain extent. It's a movie that deals with our worst fears and though it may be just a tad more than a little sexist, it is a very innovative and bloody mess.

Score: ★★½

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