Audition (1999)


Dir: Takeshi Miiki - Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura, Miyuki Matsuda, Toshie Negishi,  Tetsu Sawaki, Shigeru Saiki, Ken Mitsuishi, Ren Ohsugi, Renji Ishibashi

 “Kiri kiri kiri”

Miiki’s international breakthrough movie is a truly disturbing piece of film making, a romantic drama that turns into a visceral horror movie. Audition tells the story of a shy, emotionally inhibited widower, Shigeharu, a middle-aged man who lives alone with his teenage son. He would like to start dating again but doesn’t know how to approach women. His friend, a not so successful film maker, offers him to arrange a fake audition for a film that will never be made. Shigeharu immediately feels attracted to one of the candidates, the fragile Asami. His friend signals to him that there must be something wrong with the girl, because her autobiographical stories don’t seem to match with reality, but Shigeharu refuses to give her up, walking like a lamb to the slaughter ...

The first ninety minutes of the movie are austere, subdued, almost glacial, with only a couple of sparse suggestive moments indicating the horrifying turn the events will eventually take (I won't say anything about the girl's motivation because it would harm the fascination of the narrative). The horror is limited to the final twenty minutes of the movie and note that even in those twenty minutes, Audition remains more suggestive than exploitative: the physical torture is only shown during a couple of seconds, the camera keeps lingering on the girl’s face most of the time, showing her enjoyment, accentuated by this hypnotic line she keeps repeating:

“Kiri kiri kiri”

Some call this Miiki’s best movie. I tend to agree, but of his immense body of work (he’s one of the most prolific film makers in history) this is not the easiest one to enjoy. Some will no doubt think that the story-telling is too drawn-out while other will find the horror repulsive. But the atmosphere is great and Miiki is immensily helped by two magnificent performances. Ryo Ishibashi is very good as the emotionally inhibited widower and Eihi Shiina is truly sensational as Asami. And you’ll never forget those sparse moments of visceral violence, even if you try: they’re so intense that few people can watch them without closing their eyes in abhorrence.

You’ve been warned.


* (1) Since his debut in 1961, Miiki directed more than 90 productions; he’s active in cinema, theatre and the video circuit and his work ranges from excessive (the blood-spattered Ichi the Killer) and experimental (the yakuza epic Dead or Alive, partly shot in video clip style) to family friendly (the children's movie Zebraman).


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