(2000) dir. Takashi Miike
Many writers have cited Audition as Takashi Miike’s strongest film, or at least among his strongest films. And at last, I think I finally have started to “get” him. Having watched The City of Lost Souls (2000) and more recently The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), I wasn’t too sure what all the hubbub was about, though the latter film was so bizarrely over-the-top, that he has clear cult/trash film credentials. But Audition is striking because of the contrast of the exploitation/gore sequences that are set in what could otherwise be read as a more mainstream thriller.
The film opens with a scenario that could I could easily imagine a Hollywood studio re-creating in adaptation ala The Ring (2002). A middle-aged widower is talked into meeting some new romantic prospects by his son and a friend. The friend suggests that he come sit in on an audition for a film role, reviewing the resumes and watching the audition process for a number of young women for a film that will never be made. It’s a perverse twist on the dating process, but for the first part of the film, seems as though it could go anywhere. When the widower is attracted to a beautiful but strangely lonely and depressive girl, their romance blossoms. But as things get more serious, and his friend cautions him, it turns out that this girl is literally psychotic and her traumatic past leads to a traumatic ending.
The first two-thirds of the film is shot as a conventional, mainstream narrative. But as the psychosis becomes apparant, the film veers madly about, and ultimately becomes significantly gory. When in a crazed dream state, the widower starts hallucinating every significant female of the film onto each of the bizarre scenarios that flash past him, much as his life would metaphorically as he faces death. There is a sense that all women are interchangeable for him, though that realization horrifies him. And as the “revenge” is exacted, it echoes strongly of castration.
There is a lot going on in this film, and the experience of it, for me at least, informs the other films of his that I have seen. Perhaps it is simply that this film is stronger and shows the ability to have a more polished product that allows for the bizarre extremes that he reaches for to seem somewhat more intentional and controlled. I don’t know. The other two films of his that I had seen were so unalike and unusual that it was hard to get a sense of him as a director.
Definitely interesting, I still don’t know much else to say, but I will see more of his films.