Audition
We'll be in touch. Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi, centre) likes the look of this one, while his colleague (Kunimura) thinks he's seen better...
dir Takashi Miike
scr Daisuke Tengan
with Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Miyuki Matsuda, Renji Ishibashi, Toshie Negishi, Ren Osugi, Shigeru Saiki, Ken Teruishi, Yuriko Hirooka, Fumiyo Kobinata
release UK 16.Mar.01
99/Japan 1h25
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Apparently Miike has been churning out controversial films in Japan, but this is the first to make it to Britain. And what an outrageous film it is--like a sweet, tentative romance suddenly possessed by the kind of hideously violent nightmares only David Cronenberg could have. It's about a TV executive named Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) who, seven years after his wife's death, gets an innocent suggestion from his teen son (Sawaki): Why doesn't he remarry and end his loneliness? A coworker (Kunimura) suggests he hold auditions for a wife, under the guise of casting sessions for a movie. Soon Aoyama is obsessed by the timid young actress-dancer Asami (Shiina), and things seem to be going very nicely indeed when, all of a sudden, Asami's mysterious past seems to reveal terrifying secrets involving torture by acupuncture and amputation, among other things.

This shift is so jarring that it snaps us out of near hypnosis in the story's first half and turns us into cringing, withering wrecks. The romantic plot is so slow and dull that we're never prepared for what follows--a hideous descent into paranoia and near madness as Aoyama's imagination gets the best of him (and us) with increasingly awful scenes of carnage and maiming. If it sounds too horrible to watch, it often nearly is. And while Miike drags even this section of the film on just a bit too long, he at least does so with a serious point to make about Aoyama's deep fear of opening up the emotional floodgates again, including a wariness toward moving on to a new commitment and his profound paternal instinct. And that's not all: This is also a blackly comic look at the battle of the sexes in Japan. With more disturbing imagery than most films can imagine (this film leaves even Hannibal in the dust), it's amazing that it's remotely watchable. But Miike also throws in some very funny dialog and action, plus a lot of confusing montage to keep us guessing whether this is all really happening or not. The resulting film is head-spinning, unsettling and just a bit self-indulgent, but such a blast of sheer cinematic talent that it can't be ignored.
strong adult themes and situations, language, violence cert 18 12.Mar.01

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"A very difficult film to rate. At the start of this we meet a middle aged man seven years after the death of his wife, who, after much prompting from his son, decides to find himself a new wife and decides to audition 30 women and picking the one he wants. To reveal more would be to reveal too much. It's a fairly straightforward love story to begin with, and then suddenly it turns into something completely different. It is at times nasty, it is disturbing, and it is shocking, but it is also a perfect example in audience manipulation, expertly handled and thoughtfully done. But certainly not to everyone's taste." --Jeff Greenhalgh, Bolton England 21.Apr.03
2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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