Kiri... kiri... kiri...
Or in English, 'cut... cut... cut...', is the mantra for this groundbreaking psychological horror that brought Takashi Miike to the world's attention.
Of all the Miike films I've seen to date (and I have plenty still to see!), Audition remains my favourite - a great premise, complimented by unique imagery and set pieces which have now taken their rightful place in the horror hall of fame - the sack in the bare room with a ringing phone; the hypodermic needle, poised for unspeakableness... In traditional cinematic terms, it might be argued that it's a flawed film; with an overlong setup and confusing narrative, but I don't think traditional cinematic terms are applicable here. The three act structure, whilst just about discernible, seems redundant given that the whole latter half of the film, from the point where Aoyama first kisses Asami, is a brilliantly disorienting fusion of dream and reality; an exercise in cognitive dissonance.
From one of the earliest scenes, where Aoyama is seen reeling in the big catch, through to the final image of a mutilated man lying prone and helpless on the floor, the transition from hunter to hunted is expertly handled by Miike. I actually think the long setup - the audition process, Aoyama's courtship of Asami, his relationship with his family and co-workers - is a vital component in making his subsequent descent into darkness as effective as it is. It almost goes without saying that the cinematography is gorgeous throughout - typified by the judicious use of colour; from the flat tones of Aoyama's home and workplace through to the vivid colour filters used for the dream-like sequences at the abandoned dancing school and the Stone Fish bar in Ginza.
Audition is more disturbing than it is scary, but there are a couple of great jumps, both involving the sack in Asami's unkempt apartment. In Asami, Miike has created a modern day succubus - outward beauty concealing demonic rage; a creature of indeterminate age, identity, corporeality... some kind of sadistic shape-shifting automaton perhaps (surely impossible, but disconcertingly hinted at), with a stock set of lines and gestures she uses to reel in her prey. According to modern psychology, legends of succubi may be ascribed to the hallucinations brought on by sleep paralysis. In the denouement, Asami inflicts a literal paralysis on Aoyama, but he seems to have been sleep-walking into his fate from the moment he laid eyes on her photo, ignoring the warnings of his friend, Yoshikawa. Audition taps perfectly into the primal fear of The Uncanny; the horrible realization that something so familiar can be so strange. Truly insidious.
Dir. Takashi Miike, 1999