Audition (1999): Japanese Psychological Thriller from Takashi Miike

Japanese Psychological Thriller

The gifted Japanese director Takashi Miike made a strong impression with his violent yakuza films, “Dead or Alive” and “Fudoh: The Next Generation.”
Grade: A- (**** out of *****)
But the psychological thriller Audition is an even more impressive and unsettling movie, one that many Western critics have compared to Adrian Lyne’s 1987 smash hit thriller “Fatal Attraction” and Neil LaBute’s 1997 nasty indie expose, “In the Company of Men.”
The film centers on a middle aged man, Shigeharu Aoyama (well played by the actor Ryo Ishibashi), who still feeling potent several years after the death of his wife Yoko, decided to get married again.
Problem is, he doesn’t like most of the women he meets in cocktail lounges, whom he finds vulgar, loud and unrefined—this time he wants a nice, civilized girl.
For advice he turns to his friend, a movie producer, who comes up with a resourceful plan. Why not conduct a casting call for a movie, and this way Shigeharu can audition and choose his favorite femme.
Of the three dozen girls, all naïve but ambitious, who show up for the audition, Shigeharu selects Asami (Eihi Shiina), a very young and niave girl with an angelic face.
The couple goes on a date, which goes very well, and Shigeharu proposes a marriage.
What begins as a gentle and romantic affair turns into a disturbing nightmare, full of sado-masochism, torture and violence.
Miike is excellent at building steady suspense and shifting perspectives, and the last, highly tense and intense reel is particularly striking in its thematic and stylistic touches. Throughout the narrative, Miike intersperses wickedly perverse and devious humor, which helps digest the graphically violent scenes.
Running time: 115 Minutes