Story: After the death of his wife, businessman Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) feels like his life has ended at times and in truth, he feels as though he may never recover. Even seven years after she passed, Aoyama finds himself still alone and without any signs of getting back into the romance pool. But when his son and a close friend Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) urge him to seek out a new woman, he finally breaks down and agrees to give it another chance. As he is a movie producer himself, Yoshikawa comes up with a plan in which Aoyama pretends to be a producer, holding auditions for a female role within a picture. In truth however, the girls will be trying out for Aoyama and once he’s found an acceptable one, he can make a run at her. A line of young ladies passes in and out of the auditions, until a gorgeous young woman named Asami (Eihi Shiina) walks into the scene. The two instantly click and even when Aoyama reveals the true nature of the audition, Asami seems to not mind in the least. She seems like a dream come true and at times, even too good to be true, but is she really, or does she harbor some kind of dark secret?

Entertainment Value: A dark, tense thriller with some strong horror vibes at times, Audition is one of Takashi Miike’s best, in my opinion. Audition plays like a romance picture for about an hour, then takes some odd turns toward a highly memorable conclusion. The premise is well executed and when the heat gets switched on, Miike’s direction kicks into overdrive and we’re shown some images that could be hard for some folks to shake off. I think we all expect odd cinema from Miike, but his closing touches here push even our expectations from him and if you ask me, that is one reason he is such a gifted filmmaker. He takes cultural elements and turns them on their ear, creating a memorable, powerful picture in the process. I also appreciated how Audition crafts such a terrific, engaging narrative without slowing the pace or losing focus, the movie feels tight and streamlined throughout, without sacrificing any depth of plot. The atmosphere is excellent and built to near perfection, while tension is masterfully explored and slowly dialed up. Audition is a genre classic and a crown jewel of Miike’s career, so I am proud to give it a high recommendation.

As I mentioned above, director Takashi Miike is well known for making use of violence, blood, and disturbing themes in his pictures. But in Audition, the sadistic themes and visuals aren’t just thrown up on screen to shock, although that is part of it, to be sure. Miike takes aim on the stereotypical view of women, especially at one time in Japan, a place where women are historically and incorrectly viewed as inferior, submissive, and subservient. He uses this to add to the tension and pull out some nice twists, especially for the audiences in Japan. But Miike’s vision doesn’t lose steam when viewed from other cultures, though Americans might have a different perspective on the film’s events. Even so, this kind of Cronenberg meets Hitchcock masterwork hits the mark in any culture, as we all get that same eerie, creepy feeling as the film rushes toward the close. Other films by Miike include Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, Dead or Alive, Fudoh: The Next Generation, and The City of Lost Souls.

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