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  Audition No Pain, No Gain
Year: 1999
Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishabashi, Toshie Negishi, Ren Osugi
Genre: Horror, Romance, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 7 votes)
Review: Middle aged widower Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) decides after seven years since his wife's death that he should find himself a new wife. So how does he go about it? His film producer friend suggests that they audition his prospective girlfriends by pretending to be casting for a new film, and sure enough, one woman seems just right - or is she?

Here's another one of those films that is difficult to discuss without giving the whole game away, because there's one hell of a twist in Audition. At first, the film appears to be a melancholy love story about one man's search for a woman to take the place of his dead wife. Asami looks perfect for him - troubled, but gentle and thoughtful. Then she won't return his calls and he has to go looking for her.

And that's where events take an unsettling turn into a world of nightmare - but how much of it is real? For the first half, Audition is about how an idealistic view of your perfect partner will lead to inevitable disappointment - the potential spouses have Aoyama's wife to live up to. He expects things to run the course of a romantic comedy, unfortunately for him he ends up in a shocker of a horror movie.

Is he ashamed at trying to remarry when he still loves his wife? Or has Asami been seriously fucked up by her abusive uncle? Is the last half hour a revenge on men who play cruel tricks with women's affections, such as, ooh, I don't know, holding bogus auditions to secure a girlfriend? It's never entirely clear, and the film remains curiously sympathetic to its main characters throughout. Suffice to say, the deliberately-paced set-up fails to prepare you for the truly sickening climax. The fact that it all bizarrely ends on a life-affirming note doesn't make the whole thing any more reassuring. Music by Kôji Endô.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Takashi Miike  (1960 - )

Japan’s most controversial director, notorious for his dauntingly prolific output and willingness to push the boundaries of taste. Miike started working as an assistant director in the late 80s, before moving into making straight-to-video thrillers in 1991. He made his feature debut in 1995 with the violent cop thriller Shinjuku Triad Society, and since then has averaged around seven films year.

His best best known pictures are the deeply twisted love story Audition, the blackly comic gorefest Ichi the Killer, cannibal comedy musical Happiness of the Katakuris and the often surreal Dead or Alive trilogy. Films such as The Bird People in China and Sabu showed a more restrained side. With later works such as samurai epic 13 Assassins and musical For Love's Sake he showed no signs of slowing down, reaching his hundredth movie Blade of the Immortal in 2017. A true original, Miike remains one of the most exciting directors around.

 
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