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Film Noir in Audition

Page history last edited by Nykki Montano 12 years, 5 months ago

One of the most striking qualities of Takashi Miike's Audition is its employment, and conscious reappropriation of, traditional genre and narrative structures. This is certainly true in the film's relationship with film noir- it utilizes many of noir's most ready elements (the femme fatale, the alienated, misogynistic male protagonist who encounters her, etc.) and denies their cathartic positions in their narrative, making their appearance all the more tenuous and disquieting. Accordingly, Schwartz ascribes the title of "neo-noir" to the film, due to its incorporation of noir tenents in a reflective and intentional fashion (xiii).


 Asami, the woman who captivates and enthralls Aoyama, is an interestingly complex send-up of the femme fatale archetype.  Initially, she embodies the type of domestic, reserved femininity that Aoyama's skewed, if culturally-endorsed brand of misogyny demands.  The film, however, almost immediately starts to question her idyllic-ness, with Aoyama's friend Yoshikawa (who encourages and promotes the namesake false "audition" of the film, which is arguably Aoyama's most deplorable moment) warning Aoyama to be careful in his all-consuming desire.  It should be noted that her association with a horrifying, mysterious burlap sack is more than unsettling.  Throughout much of the narrative, the film sides with Aoyama in his seeming naivety- he is, after all, portrayed as an attentive, if depressive, father, and has not given himself to a life of womanizing following the death of his wife.  As the film reaches its violent and revelatory climax, however, all of the suspicions about Asami and her shrouded character come to fruition.  As Asami tortures Aoyama, he is now the body on display- both for the camera and for Asami's own, ironic audition.  In the most immediate sense, she embodies the femme fatale's archetypical capacity to place the men who desire them in dangerous and seedy situations, all accomplished by way of mystique and desire.  What Miike does to play off of this archetype is to seemingly condemn Aoyama's self-assured misogynistic conception of feminine identity- Asami makes him both penetrable with her instruments of torture, and- if reading her act of torture as a reversal of gendered hierarchies- castrated and emasculated in the physical capacity that he values (his physical evaluation and desire for Asami).  In Asami and Aoyama's strange, violent interchange, Miike is using noir character archetypes to inform and complicate his film.


While not used as the sole lighting influence in Audition, a noir-esk lighting scheme is seen sprinkled throughout the film. Film noir is rooted in the use of low-key, high contrast lighting. Shadows are intense and bountiful in this genre of film, as well as a particular attention to the contrast between black and white or dark and light areas of camera shots. One set of shots that epitomize the film noir lighting style are those that show Asami in her small, bare apartment. The still below shows Asami sitting in her apartment listening to the radio announcement for the audition while the rain pours down outside her window. The room is full of shadow with a contrasting light area found in the window as well a portion of the foreground on the wooden floor. This lighting coupled with the minimal mise-en-scene of the shot give a lonely, cold, and even an eerie or foreboding feel to the space and the character associated with it. This reading makes sense when thinking back about the scene after learning more information about Asami, her past, and the complicated attributes of her character as well as the gruesome events to come, by her hand.



In the clip below Asami and Aoyama are found eating in a restaurant with interesting lighting. The scene reflects aspects taken directly from the film noir style. A large portion of each shot is cast in deep shadow and there is high lighting strategically placed, usually on the faces of Aoyama and Asami as they are talking. This high focused lighting is tinted red, giving the noir inspired element a Miike twist while still creating a sense of mystery and warning. This scene includes an appearance by Aoyama's deceased wife, giving rise to an ominous, disturbing atmosphere. While not a lighting technique, stylized camera angles, such as the many low angle shots found here, reflect a film noir influence on Miike while creating this scene, as the formal elements of the film are laboring in service of heightening the atmospheric qualities of the interaction.




Major Edit Ideas:

-Miike's use of lighting

-Film's status as neo-noir?

- Interesting Scene with Rain (Aoyama's car)


Works Cited


"Audition (film)". Wikipedia. 02 Dec. 2009.
Schwartz, Ronald. Neo-noir the New Film Noir Style from Psycho to Collateral. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow P, 2005.

Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 2:06 am on Dec 3, 2009

* I agree that lighting is important.
* I'm utterly convinced by this reading of Asami.
* The cruelly ironic conclusion strikes me as quite noir in its character.

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