The film that opened Western eyes to the wonders of Takashi Miike's bulging back catalogue. Strange, considering most viewers kept them firmly shut throughout the last half hour.
It all starts so gently, a middle-aged producer Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) holding casting auditions for a film that doesn't really exist. It's his friend's idea: a foolproof way for this shy, nervous widower to meet women. Enter Asami (Eihi Shiina), perfect Asami: young, modest, lithe, demure, beautiful... And available.
Then things turn nasty - unrelentingly, pitilessly nasty - Asami breaking out first the syringes, then the needles and finally the piano wire. Is it all a hallucinatory nightmare, Shigeharu's suppressed guilt caught on camera? Or is Asami really a screwed-up loner, avenging years of abuse on the producer's poor, bare body?
Whichever way you look at it, Audition teaches painful lessons about the ills of objectifying women, Shigeharu's virgin/whore complex taken to loony extremes and given a sadistic twist. And yet he's a decent, likeable character, his crimes born out of socio-sexual conditioning. It's this gnarly complexity that turns Audition from a good psychological horror film into a great one... Well, that and the most unbearable torture scene you'll ever see.