A truly shocking horror film about obsession gone evil, "Audition" is made even more disturbing by its haunting beauty. Lyrically paced pic may lose some ghost fans because of its deliberate style, which puts off big chills to the very end, but that's exactly what may allow it to break out of creepfest ghetto. Some arthouse play is possible, especially in latenight venues.

A truly shocking horror film about obsession gone evil, “Audition” is made even more disturbing by its haunting beauty. Lyrically paced pic may lose some ghost fans because of its deliberate style, which puts off big chills to the very end, but that’s exactly what may allow it to break out of creepfest ghetto. Some arthouse play is possible, especially in latenight venues.

This latest outrage form Takashi Miike makes the young helmer a rival to “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, with a body of work ranging from the elegant “Bird People of China” to the lonely-hit-man saga “Rainy Dog” and blood-splashing “Fudoh: The New Generation.” Here, he riffs on the biz itself by making his protag (sad-faced Ryo Ishibashi) a widowed TV producer. When the man’s teenage son tells Dad he ought to remarry before he gets any older, he holds auditions for likely wives — on the pretext of a phony movie part.

Only one candidate stands out, a former ballerina (Eihi Shiina) who always dresses in white. At first, the exec can’t believe his luck in finding this soft-voiced beauty, but her autobiographical stories never seem to check out. Then he sees the weird scars on her legs and starts hearing strange stories about people who disappeared from her life. And let’s not forget about that man with no feet or tongue she keeps in a bag on her living room floor.

“Hana-bi” lenser Hideo Yamamoto’s exquisite work lulls the viewer while editor Yasushi Shimamura pulls such smooth stunts with the time frame that auds can’t be sure where they are in the sequence of things — or whether some gruesome events are really happening at all. Most intriguingly, pic may be either a harsh critique of possessive love or a gory celebration of outright misogyny.

Audition

JAPAN

Production

An Omega Project (Tokyo) production. Produced by Akemi Suyama, Satoshi Hukushima. Executive producer, Toyoyuki Yokohama Directed by Takashi Miike. Screenplay, Daisuke Tengan, based on a novel by Ryu Murakami.

Crew

Camera (color), Hideo Yamamoto; editor, Yasushi Shimamura; music, Koji Endo; production designer, Tatsuo Ozeki. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Oct. 6, 1999. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

With: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Miyuki Matsuda, Renji Ishibashi.

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