Takashi Miike is one of the wildest filmmakers working today and one of the most prolific making at least two films a year for over 20 years. Auditionis often considered his masterpiece and was the first film of his which cemented his reputation in the west. Miike often crossbreds genres with much ease and Audition is a perfectly example of that because for the majority of the film it’s a romantic comedy and then in the final act becomes a sadistic horror film.
The gist of the film is a middle age widower takes up his filmmaker friend’s offer of sitting in auditioning actresses for his film. Little do the actresses know that the widower is also audition woman for be his next girlfriend and he becomes obsessed with one in particular. As you may imagine the woman in question is quite as she seems and to go on would be to spoil it.
Audition came at the start of the “Asia Extreme” movement of the late 90s which went through to the mid 00s. It was mostly Japanese cinema and South Korean cinema and their were related movements in Western countries like France. The films pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable on-screen to be much controversy and Audition is still considered one of the most shocking films ever made. During its premiere it had mass walkouts and somebody fainted and required serious medical attention.
It’s extreme nature isn’t even down to what you see in the film, to be blunt you don’t see that much during the climatic segment of the film. Miike expertly convinces the viewer that they see more like you actually do like Alfred Hitchcock did in Psycho back in 1960. The real disturbing nature of the film is down to the switch from romantic comedy to sadistic torture which I can only imagine what it would be like seeing without prior knowledge of the film it would be quite the mindfuck.
Miike has played with genre in equally inventive ways with films like his zombie/musical The Happiness of the Katakuris but Audition remains to this day one of the key films of the “Asia Extreme” movement and Miike’s oeuvre. It may not be disturbing as some critics and filmmakers have claimed but it’s still one of those shockers that is required viewing. Arrow has released a nice package with commentary from Miike along with plenty of interviews with cast and crew. There is also an interview with Tony Rayns who is a Japanese film expert.