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Review: Audition

Went to Metrograph to catch a screening of Arrow’s gorgeous restoration of Takashi Miike’s Audition. This J-horror masterpiece exemplifies the “Asian Extreme Cinema” craze of the late nineties/early aughts, but it feels even more relevant in the wake of the entertainment industry’s numerous post-Weinstein scandals. The plot revolves around a grieving widower’s efforts to find a new wife via a bogus casting call, and although the film doesn’t pretend that its protagonist’s actions are anything but morally reprehensible, it still plays much of the first act for laughs, creating an unnerving tonal disconnect; indeed, a great deal of the tension arises from how shamelessly the alleged hero exploits the insecurities of the various women he encounters. Tempting as it is to interpret the story as some sort of twisted feminist revenge fantasy, however, it quickly becomes apparent that the deadly leading lady is just as sick and vile as the men she butchers, using her childhood trauma as an excuse to torture and torment others (seemingly in pursuit of a warped sexual thrill). Miike’s deliberately disjointed editing (which features frequent jump cuts) is absolutely sublime, creating a disorienting, hallucinatory atmosphere that keeps the viewer constantly off-balance, while his gleefully confrontational depiction of violence during the climax… well, suffice it to say that the last fifteen minutes of the movie had everybody in the theater squirming in their seats.

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