Audition (1999)

Review #1,317

Director:  Takashi Miike
Cast:  Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki
Plot:  A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife.  The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.

Genre:  Drama / Horror / Mystery
Awards:  -
Runtime:  115min
Rating:  R21 for violence/torture and sexuality.
International Sales:  Omega Project Inc

“Words create lies.  Pain can be trusted.”

Even without seeing it, I'm sure you would have heard about the notoriety of this film.  The man behind it is of course Takashi Miike, revered by his fans for his cult movies that involve explicit gore, violence and sexuality, and which revolve around disturbing and perverse themes. 

He is incredibly prolific, and have made a wide range of films across many genres, but he is still considered one of the most controversial filmmakers working today.  His recent works 13 Assassins (2010) and Lesson of the Evil (2012) have had a limited theatrical run in Singapore, but his signature work, Audition, screened uncut for the first time 17 years since its release, takes the cake. 

Audition begins like any other Japanese melodrama, centering on a grieving husband who loses his wife to sickness.  Years later, he and his son lead comfortable if mundane lives.  With plans to find a suitable woman to remarry, and inspired by a colleague's sparkling idea to hold a scam audition for young women who are keen to star in a movie, Shigerharu (Ryo Ishibashi) begins to 'audition' for his future spouse. 

Enter Asami (Eihi Shiina), one of contemporary Japanese cinema's creepiest characters—first seen as a long-haired woman in a white dress, a horror motif so unsettlingly created by the landmark Ringu, released internationally in the same year. 

Miike builds the fascinating if tense relationship between Shigerharu and Asami expertly, often through a fragmented editing style that brings her mysterious past to the fore.  These flashbacks are intertwined with Shigerharu's nightmares, and the present, so much so that it is difficult to ascertain what is real and what is not, or what has happened, is currently happening, or a psychic foreshadowing.  

There is no doubt that Miike's playful if disturbing treatise on illusions and delusions is Audition's most remarkable aspect.  There is a brilliant sequence that sees smaller supporting characters popping out unexpectedly in what seems like a hallucinatory event, or is it not?

Audition continues to shock—its climax once seen cannot be unseen.  But what an experience this is, an audaciously perverse psycho-torture film that has had few equals. 

Verdict:  The psycho-torture film that launched Miike to international cult stardom is also an expertly-crafted tale on illusions and delusions.


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