Audition (Japan; 115min.)

directed by: Takashi Miike
starring: Ryo Ishibashi; Eihi Shiina
Bob says: "This is definitely the kind of film that sticks with you, one way or another. While I don't find myself wondering if Asami is at my back door (seek help, Michael!), that cute sound she makes over and over again toward the end of the film is still echoing in my head.

It's also the kind of film that merits multiple viewings, as there's just so much going on when things really get moving. I noticed that when the bunch of us were discussing it afterward, there were a number of shots that one person would mention and then many of us would admit to not even having noticed. And I didn't notice the change in the muzak in the semi-matching restaurant scenes.

Michael's right in stressing that it would be wrong to call Audition a horror film, despite the elements it uses from the genre. It's more a psycho-political feminist revenge/male guilt movie. Of course, lots of horror movies use the monster as some metaphor for a social ill, but this was much more direct - yes, Asami's actions are monstrous, but is she? Does her past (if it's really her past) do enough to explain her actions to the point where the audience can "forgive" her? And even if she is a monster... I find myself thinking of her as more of a Lady Macbeth with a back story. I suppose it's more in the line of a movie like FATAL ATTRACTION, although I certainly wouldn't want to try to equate the two. In FATAL ATTRACTION, Glenn Close's character is (no matter how much one chooses to agree that she's been wronged) turned into a standard American horror film monster, complete with one of those "oh-what-a-relief-she's-finally-dead-EEEEEEK-SHE'S-STILL-ALIVE" sequences. Aoyama's final scene says so much more, no matter how you choose to take it. And I loved that brief sequence in which the man (can't remember his name, but I'm pretty sure Shigeharu was his son's name) finds himself in the audition chair. Personally, I've always thought that the vast majority of men deserve that sort of torture (well, just the psychological element of it).

I'd highly recommend this one to anyone who can handle extreme ugliness (both kinds). I can't think of many "gross-out" films that I'd be willing to consider serious artistic statements, but I'd certainly put Audition on the list. I think Pasolini would have loved this one.

This weekend is turning into quite an adventure. Audition yesterday and BAISE-MOI today. I may end up spending the next week in hiding. Anybody got a large burlap bag they can loan me?
Dean says: "AUDITION really is a great film with a lot to say about certain aspects of contemporary Japan."
Laura says: "Technically and artistically, AUDITION is a masterful piece of work. Cinematographer Hideo Yamamoto (HANA-BI/FIREWORKS) puts Asami in a subtle spotlight during her first dinner with Shigeharu, suggesting that this is the real audition (this is further emphasized by an 'audience,' which includes Yoko, who tells Shigeharu he can't have Asami). Inventive camera placement intensifies the early humor and later horror. Editor Yasushi Shimamura balances the current action with flashbacks and flashes of premonition and, with director Miike, keeps us off balance as to which nightmare is reality. Asami speaks of a harmonious family while Shimamura furiously jump cuts. Sound (Kenji Shibazaki) is influenced by Lynch. Koji Endo provides appropriately strange music which runs the gamut from elevator style to the exotic ethnic arrangements found in Werner Herzog films." 5 cats
For Laura's complete review: ""
Michael says: "Is it possible that one of the most viscerally, emotionally and psychologically horrific films this year could be one of MY favorites? Those of you who know me, know who squeamish I am about graphic violence... I need to be forewarned of particularly violent scenes or I can't enjoy the movie (Thank you, Laura.) Well it's true. AUDITION contains some truly horrific moments, and I loved it.

But AUDITION isn't really a horror film. It's a film that uses some of the conventions of a horror film (as well as a romantic comedy) to create a complex, nightmarish portrait of a man's guilt with additional commentary of a woman's place in society. Shigeharu is a widower who is toying with the idea of getting remarried. When his filmmaker friend suggest he hold an audition to find a new wife, he reluctantly agrees. Forewarned never to select the best actress, he becomes fascinated by Asami, a demure, sweet young woman with an increasingly more mysterious past. By mid-point, the two go to the beach for a weekend together and it's from there that Shigehaur's life begins a spiralling descent into utter horror. To say anymore would be a disservice to the film, but I was amazed at the level of horror, and yet the humor that would bring out nervous laughter at the most inappropriate times.

Japanese director Takashi Miike mines the darkest recesses of imagination to paint this startling portrait that had me wired on adrenaline for hours after the film. Miike and his cinematographer, Hideo Yamamoto are masters in setting up scenes, both of breathtaking beauty and stark terror. I must also mention Kji Endo who wrote the score, which was subtle and effective. Two scenes that take place in the same restaurant are made decidedly contrasting, not only by the dialogue, but by the subtle transformation of the muzak playing in the background. Great stuff. Oh yeah, the Sound Design was great too... really terrifying!

And I was most impressed by Eihi Shiina as Asami. A more terrifying presence has rarely been seen in cinema. When I got home after the film I was thinking that if I saw her at my back door out the window, I would be paralyzed with fear. Truly an award-winning performance." 5 cats
Robin says: "When longtime widower Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) realizes that his son Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) is old enough to date he decides that it's time he found a mate of his own. His TV producer friend (Jun Kunimura) sets up an audition schedule for 30 pretty young women ostensibly for an acting job, but really with the hidden agenda to find the shy Shigeharu a girlfriend. He becomes smitten with one demure young lady, Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shinna), not realizing that he has made a very bad choice, indeed, in AUDITION" 4 cats
For Robin's complete review: ""
Scot says: "I also loved this one and can't think of much to add to what Michael and Bob have said except to say that no movie has made me jump and squirm like this for years, so I highly recommend it for anyone who thinks they can handle the truly wince-inducing, stomach-lurching, and well, nervous giggle-producing climax.

I can't stop calling my cat 'kit-TY-kit-TY-kit-TY-kit-TY!'" 4 1/2 cats