Watching More Movies: 1999′s ‘Audition’
“It was all a dream. I used to read ‘Word Up!’ Magazine.” – Notorious B.I.G.
I believe the dream sequence is a pathetic storytelling device. Not the quick rose-petals-falling-from-Menu-Suvari’s-naked-body-type dreams from “American Beauty,” nor the extended journey into Technicolor of “Wizard of Oz.” But the dream sequences that attempt to fool the audience, pulling the rug from under them in a “got ya” sort of way. Brian De Palma has been guilty in “Dressed to Kill” and “Femme Fatale” and it was used to negate a 40-minute piece of storytelling in the Nicolas Cage-starring “Next,” earning its spot at the bottom of my “Movies of 2007” list. I didn’t know “Audition” did the same.
I’d tried watching “Audition” once before, about seven years ago. I was nodding off during it and falling asleep plus subtitles don’t mix. I remembered portions of the film. Certainly the final 15 to 20 minutes for which the movie is known for. This was also at the height of my “Saw” and “Hostel” love, giving me reasons to beg for torture porn. Due to what I vividly remembered, I crossed the film off my list and moved on, but decided to give it another try to take in the full experience.
“Audition” begins with Shigeharu Aoyama at his wife’s bedside for the last seconds of her life. Seven years later, his son notes his discontent and suggests he remarry. Shigeharu confides the idea to his filmmaker friend, telling him he doesn’t want a marriage to fail at his age and wants to make sure he meets as many women as possible to make an informed decision on choosing his betrothed. His friend suggests setting up an audition for a movie and Shigeharu can sit in on the process to learn about each girl who comes in. Eventually, he lands on Asami Yamazaki, a former ballet dancer, and attempts to court her.
This is the only Takashi Miike film I’ve seen, but he has no less than 92 entries on his directing resume, dating back to 1991. A good 25 of them are music videos, but that still only knocks his film entries down to the 60s. You wonder how one movie in a sea of that many rises above the others. For “Audition,” it’s the end. It’s impossible to describe the movie without touching upon it, but prior to then the film plays largely like a romantic drama, especially with its soap opera-esque score over the scenes the lovelorn Shigeharu shares with Asami. This makes the torture scenes at the end all the more surprising, but it’s revealed to have been a dream. Normally, this would enrage me, but here it gives Shigeharu pause. It’s a similar effect to Tom Cruise’s reaction to Nicole Kidman’s dream confession in “Eyes Wide Shut,” making it more than just rug-pulling diversion. “Audition” could possibly be blamed for the bad dream sequences in “Femme Fatale” and “Next,” but even so, I’m glad I gave it another try.