For a film said to have been shot in a mere three weeks, numerous scenes from Takashi Miike’s AUDITION have remained in my nightmares for over a decade. Japanese actor and rock singer Ryo Ishibashi plays Shigharu Aoyama, a lonely widower looking to finally start a fresh relationship after the untimely death of his wife. Since Tinder had yet to be invented in 1999, Shigharu (who happens to be a successful television producer) instead stages a fake audition with the hope of meeting a potential soul mate through his casting call. The plan seems to work, as Shigharu succeeds in luring a number of women to his audition, including the beautiful Asami (Eihi Shiina) who seems perfect for the part.
Shigharu makes his move, and Asami agrees to a date, but as the two get to know each other, Shigaru begins to wonder if his audition was such a great idea after all. As it happens, Asami has a few skeletons in her closet- as well as a mutilated man in a burlap sack, and a number of missing ex-boyfriends, which, for Shigharu, are understandably deal-breakers. Asami, however, is not the kind of girl who will simply allow a man to walk over her- or walk at all- as is proven by the film’s finale.
Viewed by many as Miike’s masterpiece, Audition is the first of his films to earn significant notoriety among Western horror fans, and it is, in many ways, a perfect showcase for the seasoned director’s numerous talents. At times, Audition boasts scenes as memorably terrifying and artistically adept as any more infamous American horror classic. While some may find the lengthy build up toward the film’s cringe-inducing crescendo to be a bit much, it is precisely that build up that makes the film’s last 40 minutes so horrifying.
The first hour of what could be called romantic drama, lulls the viewer, along with Shugharu into a sympathetic-swooning for the sweet and delicate yet damaged Asami, only to be suddenly thrust head first into the second circle of Hell as we are hit with the realization that this bitch is crazy. On the other hand, in a world where holding a fake audition designed to objectify women for personal gain is considered sort of romantic, rather than epically creepy, one could also argue that Asami is simply a reaction to modern male chauvinism. Either way, Audition is to dating as The Shining is to off-season hotel caretaking- something to consider the next time you “swipe right.”