September 13, 2004

It's The Callbacks That'll Get You

audition.bmpWe all know that curiosity killed the cat, but Seattle Maggie could not resist temptation. It had been taunting us from its shelf at Video Vertigo for a long time now, the lurid image of a woman in black vinyl gloves coyly wielding a wicked syringe. Yes, it was Takashi Miike's infamous Audition, a film that reaped as many accolades from film reviewers as dire warnings about gruesome made flesh on screen. We had been been tempted by this film ever since its US debut at the 2000 SIFF, where the tantalizing rumor was that some unfortunate festival goer had stumbled from this screening into the theater lobby and either puked, fainted, or both. We wondered what could be so bad as to inspire public regurgitation and/or swooning, then immediately wondered if we really, truly wanted to know.

Seattle Maggie is into the horror genre, but we do not have a taste for gore. The most disturbing thing we had seen to date was an accidental screening of Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which included illegal kidney transplants, graphic scalpel stabbings and a horrifically explicit electrocution torture scene - we say accidental because we were lulled by the beautiful but emotionally-wrenching Joint Security Area the year before and had expected something along those lines. We still can't get some of the images out of our head, and we weren't sure we wanted yet more disturbing cinematic experiences crowding out more useful bits of our brain, such as the quadratic equation, or our social security number, or Hamlet's soliloquy.

We turned to the experts for help. Rob, the nice chap behind the counter at Video Vertigo, had these words of wisdom for us: "If you don't watch the last ten minutes, it's just like a John Hughes movie." Huh. Intriguing. And still the question remained: what on earth could possibly be that awful? With our finger poised and ready on the stop button, we ventured forth into Audition.

Well, as it turns out, Rob was right. Audition is the story of an middle-aged Japanese widower who decides to remarry after seven years of mourning. In order to find the perfect mate, he holds a phony audition for a fake movie, giving him the chance to screen many young and beautiful women. An ex-ballerina with a shy smile catches his fancy, and he decides she is the one for him. They bond quietly over dinners, drawn to each other by past disappointments and tragedies. During a romantic weekend getaway, the widower decides to propose...and this is where John Hughes goes out the window and into a giant threshing machine. We won't ruin the shockfest ending for those of you with a taste for the macabre, but we can say it was brutal, sickening, and strangely compelling. Let's just say that once the piano wire came out, we had to resort to the fast forward button for a bit. And while we did manage to keep a hold on the contents of our stomachs, we admit that the bowl of chili we were going to have for dinner no longer had a lot of appeal. Audition packs a punch that some may not be able to handle, but Seattle Maggie squeaked through, peeking through our fingers, and now we know what all the fuss is about. At least we have a newfound appreciation of our feet - Trust us, after this, you will too.

Posted by seattle maggie at September 13, 2004 9:24 PM