Director: Takashi Miike
Script: Daisuke Tengan
Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renj Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda
Running time: 115 minutes
Based on a novel by Ryü Murakami, Audition begins as a gentle missive on the nature of middle-aged loneliness, and about one man - having lost his beloved wife, Ryoko - finally agreeing to his teenage son’s wishes that he find a new wife for himself, lest he spend his twilight years on his own and relatively unhappy.
Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) agrees to his son’s suggestion and, with the help of his business partner Yoshikawa, uses their media company as a way to set up an audition for wife number two under the pretext of pretending they’re casting for a new feature film, which will probably never be made.
The response to the casting call is good but Aoyama becomes quickly obsessed with one girl, Asami Yamazaki, whose photo and CV he falls in love with even before he has even met her. Asami comes across as being very submissive and gentle on paper, and a deep thinker. She used to have a career in ballet lined up before one of her legs was badly damaged, which made such a career choice an impossible one.
During the auditions he finally meets the girl of his dreams and, for him, she doesn’t disappoint, although his friend has reservations and insists that he isn’t too hasty in arranging to see her again. Obviously he doesn’t listen to his mate’s advice and jumps in at the deep end and arranges to meet her for a drink a few days later. They get on well and she makes him feel happy, and even his son notices his change in mood.
He invites her out for a meal and then later for a weekend away, which she accepts and both go well, that is until they sleep together. The following morning, he wakes up and finds her gone, vanished, and he struggles to track her down since the contact details that she gave turn out to be those of someone else who also disappeared some time before.
However, the romantic weekend away turns out not to be the last time he sees Asami, although his final encounter with her is probably not one he will want to cherish!
I won’t say any more about the story line here as I don’t want to spoil it for first time viewers, but what I will say is that when I first saw this film it really shocked me and had a similar impact to being hit, full force in the face, with a stonemason’s hammer!
What makes the story work though is Ryo’s central performance as a gentle, weary middle-aged man who, after the loss of his life-partner, struggles as both a single father and as a CEO of a business, but he manages to keep everything together, perhaps at the expense of his own happiness. The man’s subsequent lift, provided by his romantic dalliances with the ethereal Asami, is therefore as welcome to the audience as it is to the man himself. And, because the audience is given plenty of time to invest in the character and his sad story, his final act ‘comeuppance’ hits hard – really hard.
There’s a lot to enjoy in Audition – the relationships that Ryo has with his son, and his business partner are expressed well, and even a more minor character, that of one of his staff workers, is nicely fleshed out. His relationship with Asami is more unknowable because she is unknowable – if you thought Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction was damaged wait until you meet Asami. At least Close’s character didn’t get jealous about dead people! In fact, Asami’s whole ethos seems to be ‘Love me and no one else’, which she actually says at one point.
There’s also some gentle humour throughout with some amusingly un-PC things being said. For example, Ryo’s housekeeper says at one juncture: ‘A man needs a woman to support him, otherwise he’ll exhaust himself’.
Audition is nicely shot and, although sedately paced, manages to hold one’s interest throughout. And, during the final act, its horror credentials kick in nicely, resulting in many fans of the film whispering to each other: ‘kiri, kiri, kiri’, which means ‘deeper, deeper, deeper’ in English’ – watch the film and you’ll understand!
One of Miike’s better films, Audition is certainly probably his most well-known and celebrated, and for good reason. Do yourself a favour and check it out…
Arrow Video are distributing Audition on DVD and Blu-ray. As per usual with Arrow Video there are some decent extras on the disc including
A commentary by Takashi Miike & scriptwriter Daisuke Tengan
A commentary by Tom Mes
Takashi Miike: Ties that bind (30 mins) – Miike talks about the movie and how he was surprised at how popular it has become internationally. He also sees the source novel as being a love letter to a model that the author had the hots for. He also talks about how he constantly changes his style and subject matter as doesn’t want to be labelled as a horror director.
Ryo Ishibashi: Tokyo – Hollywood (16 mins) – Ryo talks about how he started off in a band, ARB, before falling into films with his first, called A Homance. He also talks about trying not to be typecast as a Yakuza gangster, and how he sees Audition as being a bit like Stephen King’s Misery.
Eihi Shiina: From Audition to Vampire Girl (20 mins) Eihi talks about the film, and her experiences of finding Audition fans the world over. She started out as a model and is a big film fan as her dad used to own a video rental store. She didn’t appear at any film festivals for the film, but she did later for Tokyo Gore Police and for Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl.
Renji Ishibashi: Miike’s Toy (21 mins) – Renji, who plays the crazy man in the wheelchair, talks about Miike’s style of directing and about his experiences working on other films with the prolific director.
Ren Osugi – The man in the bag speaks (16 mins) – Ren talks about how Miike never stops shooting and how charming a guy he actually is.
An appreciation by Tony Ray (35 mins) – Tony shares his knowledge on the film with the viewer. Apparently Audition was the third film that Miike shot that year, and he talks about how Audition plays on men’s fears that ‘women can be dangerous’!
Japanese trailer (1.38 mins) and International trailer (1.16 mins). The Japanese one is more graphic.
Stills gallery (17 stills)