Monday, July 10, 2006

Callbacks.













Miss me? Yeah, I didn't think so. So, let me kill that luke warm and fuzzy feeling you're having with a little controversy. Last night, I watched Takashi Miike's Audition and I hated it. (And this was a sincere let down, considering the hype. I'm totally cereal, guys.)

Now, before you start frothing at the mouth, let me explain myself just a little bit. I'm fine with the slow burn. Sure, this film's slow burn takes an hour, which probably could've taken a half hour and still have been effective in painting a movie-you'd-never-see-with-Robin-Williams portrait of a sad sack middle aged film exec in search of a new wife to replace his long dead one. I don't think the concept's a bad one, if I do find the exploration of said concept to be a bit bland. And, of course, there's the twist, which is, I believe, meant to not just shock, but also condemn the objectification of women in Japanese culture. Oh, and before the gore, there's what I'm sure is thought of as a bravura piece of filmmaking, where in our protagonist has an entirely incoherent fever dream with too many jumps in logic to keep track of. Bits of information recontextualized: rad. Bits of information our character could never know about: lame. Or is it all a dream? A hallucination? Neither but both? And for what?

Defenders...line up please. And, in the words of Gabrielle Union, be sure to bring it.

5 Comments:

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

i haven't seen it since i saw it back in boston at the brattle with joshy. i remember we sat in the front row and when the lights came up afterward the audience of maybe 50 people had been reduced to about 6 or so. it was hilarious.

i find a lot of miike's movies to be a bit slow, but this one is by far his most well thought out and planned. i don't know if that's the best defense or not -- well i know it isn't, but it's a damn enjoyable flick in my opinion. this more than a lot of other movies is a taste thing.

 
At 11:40 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

I also haven't seen it since I saw it with Dash (even though I own it) so I may not be as fresh on my defense either. But I still think it's a great film.

Here's the deal: I think you're too caught up in the film's content. At first glance, "Audition" seems to be exactly what you say it is -- the story of a middle-aged man seeking a young pretty wife and a condemnation of the objectifaction of women. [Though, truth be told, if it has a "message" I suspect it's more about the visceral dangers of intimacy, particularly marriage.] But I don't think Miike really cares about that very much. Just like his (very enjoyable) gangster movies are neither serious gangster films or subversions of genre, and his more parodic family films ("Happiness of the Katakuris" and, especially, "Visitor Q") aren't exactly parodies, I think this movie isn't trying to be anything other than a-not-too-terribly-nuanced examination of desire and violence and the ways these intersect. And he doesn't make his points philosophically or academically, but through a much more sophisticated aesthetic process. That's why the beginning seems slow (I don't remember it that way, I've never thought of any Miike film as slow, in either the boring sense or the thrilling sense) and that's why the progression of scenes is sometimes incoherent. Miike's not approaching the material methodically, but sinuously. And I think it works. It's a beautiful film, evocative and provoking and sinister and really pretty scary.

And, finally, this is one of those films where all the questions you somewhat mockingly dish out (is it all a dream? etc) don't matter. This isn't, like most American films of a similar outlook, a puzzle. There's no solution. It's not the kind of movie to get a fanboy all worked up and jizzing. The "twist" isn't even surprising. Think of how much a number of otherwise really good American films are ruined by this impulse to create a puzzle and let your audience solve it. I'm thinking of Memento, which I loved, and all the endless formulae to recreate the timeline (even though the timeline is obvious) and Donnie Darko which is brilliant in its obscure theatrical version and putrid in its jigsaw director's cut. So, I don't think it's worth thinking about "Audition" that way. It's quite simply not the point.

But Dash is right, Miike is a filmmaker I love, but he is more a taste than anything else -- if you don't respond to his films you don't respond. There's not much to say about them one way or another. And it's that quality, of simply existing, that I find so compelling.

 
At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Atom Ant said...

I agree with a lot of the Joshua comment, but I would also like to add that the pacing and the stucture of the movie owes a huge debt to Hitchcock's Vertigo and Psycho.

Miike, like Hitch, is playing masterfully with supense and surprise - lulling you into a false sense of security, then BLAMMO!!!

Yes, the first act of Audition could have been whittled down to five minutes (and is there really a second act?), but doing so, I believe, would have seriously diminished the impact of the climax. (I don't think the infamous final scenes would be half as legendary if it were not for the journey we had to take to get there. The violence is made even more disturbing due the to the context of the serene, the sedate, the boring.)

Ultimately, Miike (like Hitch with Vertigo) has consciously made an art movie. And to be fair to him, most other art movies are also boring most of the way through - and they don't even have a climax of blood, guts and severed feet to perk up proceedings.

 
At 12:29 AM, Blogger Joshua said...

Mr. Ant makes some fine points! (insects typically do)

And it reminds me of another problem I have with your analysis, my friend. As Atom puts it, the first part could be whittled down to five minutes. But so could most movies. The Shining could be done, in its entirety, in ten minutes. We could play this game all day long. I know your problem is mostly with the pacing (you found it dull and uninteresting) but there isn't anything in that section that strikes me as disposable. He just takes a very long time to show us everything. It's not like "Apocalypse Now: Redux" in which there are huge sections that are superfluously tacked on for the sake of a director's ego. I suppose it goes back to the taste thing, but I know we share a mutual love for Bergman, and surely his films are just a slow, and just as easily condensed, as "Audition."

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Essentially, I think this, like so many other things, comes down to a matter of taste. My issue with the beginning is almost entirely about pacing and the interest created by that pacing and by the material there in. I don't think it's at all interesting. Oh, and that plinky, maudlin music at the very beginning, when the wife dies, is beyond awful.

 

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