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ToHo Films
Director: Takashi Miike
Producer: Toyohama Yokohama
Written by: Ryu Murakami
Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura

Rating: out of 5

If I were a psychiatrist, and the movie AUDITION was my patient (just go with it), I would give out the diagnosis that AUDITION suffered from one of the worst cases of schizophrenia Iíd ever seen. However, Iím not a psychiatrist (aleast, not legally). I am but a lowly film critic and having just seen the aforementioned film, I can honestly say that I feel like Iíve been watching two different movies.

The first one is a sweet, slightly sad romantic jaunt in which your average Japanese businessman, Aoyama (Ishibashi), decides that itís time for him to get over his dead wife and take a new bride. He, with the help of his movie producer friend, arranges a phony audition to help him screen potential mates. He picks a shy, gloomy young girl named Asami (Shiina), whom he feels he truly connects with. They begin a tentative courting, dinners and the like, all leading up to a stay in a coastal. Itís there that we switch over to the other film.

In the last half of the movie, itís revealed that Asami is completely insane. Actually, to accurately describe her, I would have to call her IIIIINSAAAANE (ghoulish laughter)!!! It seems that our Asami was abused as a young girl by various men, i.e., stepfather, ballet teacher, etc. Naturally, this has turned her into a complete psycho. Her hobbies include staring at the phone, keeping people in large bags and chopping up and/or horribly dismembering anyone whom she perceives as having done her wrong. Not what anyone would call stable. I wonít give any more of the plot away, but suffice it to say it gets a lot, and I mean A LOT, worse for Aoyama before it gets any better. Two words: ďFootĒ and ďSaw.Ē The less said about that, the better.

So, for all its flip-flopping of genres, is it any good? Well, no, not really. I mean, itís entertaining enough in a purely visual sense, but it doesnít make a whole lot of sense when you get right down to it. The confusion comes from the filmís heavy reliance on flashback and hallucination sequences. The flashbacks in particular are maddening because weíll jump back to an earlier scene, but the dialogue will be completely different or the setting will have changed. I think the director was going for some kind of symbolism with all of the twisty-time stuff, but it comes off less like brilliant storytelling and more like a poor-manís David Lynch. Artsy, but without any reason. Add on top of that the ultra-slow pacing of the first hour (I was near comatose by the time we got to the good stuff) and some extremely ill-defined characters and what youíre left with is two seperate movies that never gel as one.

Despite that, there were some good things that do bear mentioning. As I said earlier, the film looks gorgeous. The cinematography is lush, probably more so than necessary, lending some great style to the scenes. Also, Ryo Ishibashi is perfect as Aoyama. He captures the loneliness and heartache of a widower just right, so you feel really sorry for him after he falls in love and ends up getting stuck full of needles. Literally (itís very unpleasant, trust me). I also feel that somewhere beneath all of the flashy directorial moves, thereís a great story in there somewhere. It just needs to be told by someone who hasnít seen LOST HIGHWAY so many times.

Do I recommend this? Well, yes and no. Really, your enjoyment of this film will hang on how much overly artistic posturing you can stomach. If thatís your bag, then by all means, grab some Cheez-Its and hunker down for some fine cinema. However, if youíre like me in thinking that a movie isnít automatically good because itís confusing, you might want to sit this one out. Maybe something good is showing on Nick at Nite. At least you donít have to worry about people suddenly getting their feet chopped off in Mayberry.

óClint Davis

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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