After my previous foray into pink cinema turned out to be more rewarding than expected, I thought I'd give this one a spin, especially since Ryu Murakami wrote the novel on which Miike's Audition was based.
Now, Rotten Tomatoes, among others, would have you believe that this is a savage indictment on Japan's sex industry and the hypocrisy of society at large. I can believe that may have been Murakami's intention, but the end result is a bit of a mess. At a couple of points it threatens to take an interesting turn; the claustrophobia of low-lit hotel rooms and shadowy, sadistic salarymen inviting seedy revelation, but proceeds instead to stumble through a series of rather tame, and deeply unerotic S&M scenes. The closest we get to a coherent, if less than subtle, social agenda is in the scene at the dominatrix's apartment, where she says something like "Japan is a wealthy country, ill at ease with its wealth; this breeds anxiety and masochistic tendencies, which I exploit for money". But ironically, she herself is dominated by a crack addiction. See the bigger picture? Nudge, nudge.
Our heroine, in a constant state of trepidation and desperately in need of a personality transplant, is Ai (Japanese for 'love'), played by Miho Nikaido. Ai is very much the submissive type, and I think we're supposed to feel for her and the debasement she is forced to endure. The trouble is I don't - I just find myself thinking, you've chosen to work for this agency, you keep going to the jobs... the only one that proves too much for her is being asked to recreate the murder and rape of a woman at the foot of Mount Fuji by a necrophiliac screening an image of said mountain onto the wall of his hotel room. The movie basically implodes in the final act - a seemingly stoned Ai wanders around the suburbs looking for her ex-lover (now married) in a white smock and a pair of yellow high heels. She lets fireworks off on someone's drive way, she falls off a ladder, she is serenaded by a mad old dame in a playground and hallucinates her tormentors. Then she goes back to work.
Dir. Ryu Murakami, 1992