Published on October 18th, 2020 | by Blake Morrow0
Spooky TFS – Audition
Takashi Miike’s Audition is still as shocking as it was in 1999; the story of a middle-aged man’s search for love and the horrible consequences.
Set at a cross-section between traditional and modern views on dating, Japan’s 1999 subversive classic Audition is director Takashi Miike’s crowning achievement. A prolific artist having helmed over one hundred projects, Miike has covered every genre under the sun. Despite that, his signature calling card has and always will be his extreme depictions of violence and sex. These extremes reside within Audition, but they’re hidden in a meet-cute melodrama that the main character can’t see through in his pursuit of love. In today’s landscape of online matchmaking, where people sell glossy profiles of themselves in the hope of finding connection, Audition serves as a cautionary tale in wading into the unknowns of the dating world.
Successful businessman Aoyama is a smart, thoughtful, and seemingly kind-hearted man coasting through life. Seven years removed from the passing of his wife, it’s his teenage son Shigehiko that suggests he try remarrying. A friend at a Tokyo radio station comes up with the idea of holding auditions for a fake movie to find a new wife for Aoyama. Wanting someone younger than himself, talented but not too talented, someone that’s beautiful but can also cook a good meal, the choices seem overwhelming until the photo of one Asami Yamazaki catches his eye. A former ballerina now seemingly lost in the world, looking at once both angelic and disquieting, she lands the role before Aoyama can even start auditioning for his.
In many ways Audition mirrors the rosy opening stages of a brand-new relationship. The first couple of weeks can be a fairy-tale love story, a butterfly induced haze helped by the soft yellow-tinged cinematography and understated score. Both Aoyama and Asami go out of their way to present the best version of themselves. This romantic melodrama framework is deceptively cute despite the fact that the whole situation is perverse. The audition that Aoyama sets up, eerily similar to flicking through profiles on an online dating site, is inherently scummy. This set-up is crucial to the shocking power of Audition’s psychological dread. Even if Aoyama can’t see it, seeds of disquiet are planted often regarding the mysterious Asami. The way these moments of unsettling discord pierce their slow-burning courtship gives Audition a bone-chilling terror that is uniquely horrifying.
In the years since its release Audition has been both denounced as misogynistic trash while being praised as pro-feminist material. If anything, it serves as a great commentary on outdated male views on relationships. Aoyama has a clear picture of his ideal wife. She’s young and beautiful, the perfect picture of domestic docility. However, the hypocritical disconnect between the standards he has for women and the casual sexism he engages in throughout hints at an inherent rottenness to his approach. Despite that, Miike doesn’t do much to play up this aspect. Aoyama remains a steady and gentle presence throughout. This isn’t a one-sided story however. Looking as though she checks all of his boxes, Asami is the prototypical prize in Aoyama’s pursuit. In any other romance the two would fall in love and live happily ever after, but Asami’s refusal to conform to the part expected of her serves as a rejection of these unrealistic standards.
In our search for love we can play any role we want to try seducing the person our heart is set on. This can work for a while but as time goes on, and lovers grow closer, secrets tend to fall away until our true nature reveals itself. There are no ghosts or haunted houses in this film. All we have to fear is the stranger sitting across from us. Even if this isn’t Miike’s most objectively violent film, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t his most twisted. I only have one word of advice: Audition is not a great first date movie.