2000, NR, 115 min. Directed by Takashi Miike. Starring Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 9, 2001

Japanese director Takashi Miike's Audition will mess you up, and that's no lie. Maybe just for an hour or two, or maybe forever; once seen, however, it can not be unseen. It gnaws on your mind like a famished larva, and you can fully expect to have a rough time of it later, when you close your eyes and try to sleep. That's when the dreams will likely arrive, and why not?

Audition, a horror film masquerading as a deeply disturbing meditation on the war between the sexes, is itself more dream-like than real. Like the best of David Lynch, you're never quite sure if what you're seeing is really happening, or if it's some awful hallucinatory episode, a skipping record lodged in the protagonist's warped and stuttering mind. Ishibashi plays Aoyama, a lonely Japanese film producer and widower who lives alone with his teenage son Tetsu (Sawaki). When his son tells him, over dinner one evening, that he's starting to look old and should remarry, Aoyama thinks over the advice and then takes it to heart. With the help of pal Yoshikawa (Kunimura), he stages a film audition, ostensibly to cast a new film, but really to find a new wife. He's immediately smitten by the willowy Asami (Shiina), whose résumé tells of a terrible injury that destroyed her ballet career ("It was like having to accept death," she writes).

The demure and submissive Asami and the lonesome Aoyama meet, fall in love, and retire to a country hotel, where Aoyama proposes to this mysterious, seemingly vulnerable woman-child. In quick succession she vanishes, reappears, and something terrible in a filthy sack gives a kick and a growl in a dark, dark room.

That's as much as I dare tell you about Audition's artful plotting. Miike was a Cannes favorite with Audition and he's a major mover in the Japanese film industry, but he's virtually unknown stateside. Audition should help alleviate that sorry situation. Apart from the film's cunning, willfully surreal atmosphere, it's also beautiful to look at (up until the scene with the piano wire, of course), and full of striking images, deeply crimson hues that alternate with cool off-blues, often in the same scene. Ishibashi's role is unique, too. He's playing double duty as the empathetic Everyman figure, but on another level he's also a possessor, the dominant male just itching for some sort of comeuppance. Audition's take on the war between the sexes is bleak and almost entirely devoid of hope. Ultimately everyone, male and female, is tainted and doomed, beautiful and broken. It's enough to make you give up dating altogether.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Takashi Miike
Fantastic Fest Review: <i>Blade of the Immortal</i>
Fantastic Fest Review: Blade of the Immortal
Director Takashi Miike slices and dices a manga favorite

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 30, 2017

More Takashi Miike Films
First Love
Japanese master Takashi Miike at his quirkiest and most romantic

Jenny Nulf, Oct. 4, 2019

Blade of the Immortal
More blood-splattered samurai action from the Japanese master

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 1, 2017

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


Audition, Takashi Miike, Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle