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Audition (1999)

“Audition” is a 1999 Japanese psychological thriller/horror film directed by Takashi Miike. Based on the novel of the same name by Ryū Murakami (serialized in the monthly magazine “Penthouse Japan”, and published in 1997). It depicts the horrible experience of a middle-aged man who tries to take advantage of an audition for the leading actress of a film to find his remarriage partner. Starring Ryo Ishibashi and Eihi Shiina. 113 minutes.

Seven years after his wife Ryoko (Miyuki Matsuda) died of a disease, Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) runs a video production company, and lives with his son in high school, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) in Setagaya, Tokyo.

Aoyama tells his friend Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), a film producer, that he plans to get married again. He says that he wants to select his ideal woman after meeting up with as many kinds of women as possible.

Yoshikawa suggests that he should select his remarriage partner after attracting women under the pretense of an audition for the leading actress of their new romance film. Aoyama agrees to the plan.

When Aoyama is screening the application documents for the audition, he is attracted by a 24-year-old woman named Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina). In her documents, she says that she had learned classical ballet for twelve years, but she gave up being a ballet dancer because she injured her back.

Yoshikawa and Aoyama hold the audition as the interviewers. In the audition, Asami says that Ace Records director Shibata has personally managed her, and she helps out in a bar in Ginza three times a week. Aoyama is enchanted by her.

Yoshikawa calls Ace Records, and he discovers that Shibata has been missing for a year and a half. He tells it to Aoyama, but Aoyama decides to ask Asami to marry him after eating with her a few times.

Asami keeps waiting for a phone call from Aoyama in her battered Japanese-style room at an apartment. A black telephone and a big sack are placed in the room. The sack is moving.

Aoyama and Asami stay at a seaside hotel. In the hotel room, Asami takes off her clothes in front of Aoyama, and she tells him to look at her body. She has two scars on her right thigh. She says they are scars from a burn in her childhood. She says to him, “Love me alone”. He nods his agreement, and starts taking off his clothes.

When Aoyama wakes up in the hotel room, Asami is missing. The front desk of the hotel calls to tell him that she has already left.

Since then, Asami doesn’t answer Aoyama’s phone, and he has lost contact with her. He starts looking for her.

Aoyama visits “Shimada Ballet Studio”, where she said she was trained. The studio has been closed. In the studio, he finds an old man (Renji Ishibashi), who has lacerations to his feet, and is in a wheelchair. Aoyama asks him about Asami. The old man recalls that he burned her right thigh in her childhood, and says to Aoyama, “Go away”.

Aoyama visits the bar “The Stone Fish” in Ginza, where she said she worked. The bar has been closed. A manager of another bar (Shigeru Saiki) happens to pass by, and he tells Aoyama that the bar was closed down more than a year ago after the bar proprietress was murdered at the bar and the body was cut up. According to the manager, when the police gathered up the pieces, they discovered there were three extra fingers, an extra ear, and an extra tongue.

Meanwhile, Asami breaks into Aoyama’s house, and she drugs a bottle of whiskey.

Aoyama comes home, drinks whiskey, and then loses consciousness.

From here, a sequence of dreamlike scenes follows, in which it is not known exactly what is real and what is a fantasy.

At the table, Asami tells Aoyama that when she was a child, she was placed with her uncle and was abused after her parents got divorced.

Aoyama sees a man without both feet, three fingers, an ear, and a tongue (Ren Osugi) appearing from the sack in Asami’s room. The man eats Asami’s vomit.

Aoyama finds himself being paralyzed and lying at home. After injecting him a neuroactive drug, Asami inserts needles into his body, and cuts off his left foot with a wire saw. Aoyama suffers great pain.

When she is going to cut off his right foot, Aoyama’s son Shigehiko suddenly comes home. Asami attacks Shigehiko with a coma spray.

Though the storyline of “Audition” is basically faithful to the original novel, the last part is different from the original.

Need to note that the film contains a shocking and horrible torture sequence in the last part.

From the perspective of feminism, it seems to be a film about a woman’s revenge for men who treat women as objects. However, from another angle, it can also be interpreted as a love story of a woman for whom to inflict pain on her loved one has become an expression of her twisted love because it emphasizes that love and pain are inseparable for Asami.

“Audition” has been internationally acclaimed as a horror film.

The film had its world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 1999, and it won the FIPRESCI Prize and the KNF Award (voted by the Circle of Dutch Film journalists) at the 29th Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2000.

In 2007, “Time” magazine selected the film as one of their “Top 25 Horror Movies”.

“The Guardian” ranked “Audition” number 21 on its list of “The 25 best horror films of all time” in 2010.

Audition (1999) – Trailer (jap/english sub)