Jaw-dropping J-Horror from filmmaker Takashi Miike. The 1999 film, AUDITION, tears into traditional views of male-female relationships – with a vengence. Imagination Connoisseur Jason Webster reviews the film and offers some excellent insights for those not familiar with Asian cinema.
Review by Jason Webster
AUDITION (1999) is a 113-minute horror film that has received universal acclaim as, not only one of the greatest J-Horror films ever produced, but one of the best horror films ever made.
Directed by prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike (FUDOH: NEW GENERATION) from a screenplay by Daisuke Tengan (13 ASSASSINS), AUDITION (1999) can be read as horror film and a feminist film. Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) can be viewed as both a monstrous antagonist to males and as an avenging force for feminism against female objectification and repression.The movie is definitely a criticism of patriarchal Japanese society – a warning to not view women through a misogynistic lens as the demure, weaker sex or subservient to men in any way. Having a stereotypical viewpoint of women can and will certainly rebound or blow up in your face. Indeed, the whole process Shigeru Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is using to search for a wife and the criteria they must meet is quite misogynistic.
However, I see AUDITION not just as a horror film, but also a tragedy. Asami was profoundly damaged and scarred by her past to the point of torturing Aoyoma one minute only to pat him the next like a lovable pet. It is suggested she has done this a few times before. So, no matter how many times she has tortured men it hasn’t bought her closure from her past or any real or sustainable level of satisfaction, she is permanently trapped in a vicious cycle…though one where she’s the one committing violence. A compulsion to do it to men who she deems have wronged her. The ending defines there are no winners or losers from the whole mess, just victims – Aoyoma is left mutilated and Asami is killed. Her past has claimed more victims and shattered lives.
The acting really good across aboard. However, I can’t say enough about the two leads of Audition who really nail their characters with their performances. Ryo Ishibashi makes Shigeru Aoyoma a character whose method for looking for a suitable wife and his ideals of the perfect wife sees him the representative of traditional Japanese patriarchal society attitudes to marriage that sends him on collision course with Asami who represents contemporary feminist criticism of such attitudes. Eihi Shiina delivers a stunning performance as Asami Yamazaki whose meek and introverted exterior is the veneer hiding her cold contempt of her years of mistreatment and disappointment from men that manifests itself in her emotionless, brutal, yet surgical torture of Aoyama. She certainly does a number on him with her catalogue of torture devices: wire, saws and needles. Thus, making her both very terrifying and tragic.
AUDITION was filmed in various locations around Tokyo and principal photography was completed in three weeks.Prior to its theatrical release, AUDITION received predominately positive reviews from critics with the general consensus being that AUDITION is “An audacious, unsettling Japanese horror film from director Takashi Miike, Audition entertains as both a grisly shocker and a psychological drama.” The film received a rating of 81 on Rotten Tomatoes, a rating of on IMDB and a Metascore of 69 on Metacritic. Among the positive reviews included those from Variety, Sight & Sound and The Hollywood Reporter of which Frank Scheck labelled AUDITION”one of the most audacious, iconoclastic horror films in recent years”.
AUDITION received its world premiere at the on 2 October 1999 at the Vancouver Film Festival, where is what part of a program consisting of contemporary J-Horror films including Ringu, Shikoku and Gemini. The film premiered in Japan on 3 March 2000 and was given only short theatrical run. After screenings at FrightFest and the Raindance Film Festival prior to its theatrical release in March 2001.
The film’s American premiere was held at Seattle Film Festival prior to its theatrical release on 8 August 2001. Audition generated much discussion amongst critics, academics and fans and became immediately popular amongst Western audiences. Over the years, it has maintained popularity through home entertainment releases on DVD and Blu-Ray.
AUDITION has influenced numerous directors including Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) and sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary). Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) included Audition in his list of top 20 films releases since 1992.
Interesting Facts About the Movie (from IMDb)
Described by Quentin Tarantino as a “true masterpiece if ever there was one,” in a video discussing his favorite films released between 1992 and 2009. When the film was screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2000, it had a record number of walkouts. At the Swiss premiere, someone passed out and needed emergency room attention.
Heavy metal musician and horror movie director/actor Rob Zombie admitted he found this movie to be the most creepy and unsettling of any horror movie he’s ever watched. The film has appeared on several lists of the best horror films ever made, and has had an influence on other horror films and directors including Eli Roth and the Soska sisters.
Audition has been described as an influence on “torture porn.” The term was invented by David Edelstein to describe films such as Saw, The Devil’s Rejects and Wolf Creek that offer “titillating and shocking” scenes that push the audience to the margins of depravity for them to “feel something”.
Audition influenced American directors such as Eli Roth. Roth stated that Audition influenced him to make his film Hostel (2005), with Audition director Takashi Miike even making a cameo as a satisfied customer of the kidnappers who let customers torture their victims.