Audition ★★★½

Echoing what everyone else has said, it's definitely best to go into this as blind as possible. The contrast in mood between the initial plot set-up and the climactic section is pretty striking.

The jaunty first act works as an enjoyable send-up of the typical romcom formula (two wounded people brought together through a zany circumstance), whilst still providing some interesting takes on misogyny. Particularly noteworthy is the way it looks how men in positions of power are so used to objectifying women that it becomes a standard behaviour; Aoyama is portrayed as a 'regular' guy despite his morally wrong activities, which effectively shows how ingrained this attitude is in society. The story stumbles for me once it's apparent that love interest Asami is lying about herself. A few reveals feel too overtly sinister which makes it blatantly obvious that something bad will happen and it takes away a lot of the mystery which had been carefully crafted up to that point. There's a long stretch where we're just waiting for the inevitable and it does get rather dreary.

However, the third act shift into deeply disturbing territory is handled very well. There's a prolonged, hazy flashback that recontextualises various parts of the narrative and fills in some of the characters backgrounds in a way that is really creative. It retains a sense of dread while managing to explore some heavy topics, mainly how someone who's abused can wrongly feel responsible for what has happened to them and how it can cause them to interlace love with pain as a result. This added depth certainly helps give what transpires more weight. The infamous final sequence sees Takashi Miike combine grisly imagery, chilling sound design and Eihi Shiina's eerily composed performance with an almost clinically straightforward approach that makes what's taking place on screen all the more horrifying. It's a visceral and uncomfortably memorable conclusion.

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