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AUDITION
Reviewed July 29th, 2002 by David Nusair

 

Thereís been a lot of buzz going around for Audition, the latest film by Takashi Miike Ė a Japanese director known for churning out at least two or three flicks a year. Horror fans have been calling this movie one of the scariest to pop up in a good long while, but like another film that was supposedly very frightening a few years ago (The Sixth Sense), Audition did little to disturb me or hinder my ability to sleep.

The film opens with the death of a successful businessmanís wife, leaving him to care for their young son. Time passes, and the man still hasnít completely gotten over the loss, but his now teenaged son encourages him to find a new wife (because, as the boy says, heís starting to look old). This isnít quite as easy as the man mightíve hoped, as heís been out of the dating loop for decades. So, his business partner suggests that the two hold an audition for a movie thatíll never be made Ė this way, they can check out prospective dates and ask them whatever questions they wish. It doesnít take long for the man to find a woman he finds intriguing, and soon, the two begin a relationship fraught with trepidation (her childhood, we soon discover, was so horrifying it essentially prevents her from loving). Hereís where it becomes a little dicey in talking about the film; what makes the last third enjoyable is the fact that itís completely unexpected. Needless to say, bad stuff begins to go down somewhere around the 90 minute mark.

Audition takes an almost excruciatingly long time to get going, and by the time it does, itís veered down a road thatís guaranteed to turn most viewers off. Itís that sharp detour that the filmís fans no doubt applaud, while I was expecting something far more sinister and ominous. Consider an early sequence in which the woman is waiting for a phone call from her new lover. She sits on the floor, hunched over, while a big sack of some sort lies motionless in the background. As the phone begins to ring, we see the woman begin to smile and the sack moves violently. That sort of stuff had me thinking something otherworldly was happening here, which certainly was not the case.

It doesnít help that Miike, seemingly influenced by David Cronenberg and David Lynch, toys with reality in the last half of the flick. Dream sequences and re-interpretations of whatís already happened occupy more screen time than whatís really happening. Itís pretty pretentious and the material in no way warrants it. Still, Audition will probably be effective for those who havenít heard a thing about it Ė but even then, jaded horror buffs will probably scoff at the lame conclusion.

Audio: Audition is presented with a Japanese 5.1 DD soundtrack and itís very effective. Towards the end, when subtle sound effects are really used well, the soundtrack really does a nice job of being creepy without being intrusive. Otherwise, this is entirely dialogue based, which is always clear and crisp.

Video: This non-anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is adequate, but not much more. Itís oftentimes grainy and contains a good deal of film related artifacts, and of course the fact that itís not anamorphic doesnít help.

Extras: First up is a commentary track featuring director Miike, except it only begins from the last half hour or so. He speaks through a translator, but he does have a lot to say, so this is actually a pretty decent track. Most importantly, he clears up the mystery of what was in that sack, which is never explained. Next is a 22-minute interview with Miike at the Egyptian theater. Miike again speaks through a translator and talks about the various steps in making Audition and about his career in general. Thereís not much repetition here between the commentary and the interview, which is certainly a good thing. Next up is an eight-minute documentary on the restoration of the Egyptian theater, which is kind of interesting but has nothing to do with the movie. Finally, thereís a selection of trailers for Audition and other films, a bio on Miike, and 15 stills from the flick.

Conclusion: Audition is overrated, but highly admired in some circles so see for yourself.

 

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