Competition drama may be the ultimate inexhaustible device. However overworked the format may be, from American Idol to Miss America, there's no denying the fresh punch of a candid new documentary standing at a different end of the artistic spectrum - The Audition, by filmmaker Susan Froemke, which explores the Metropolitan Opera's 2007 National Council Auditions. All 11 participants deserve to win this shortcut to stardom - and what built-in poignancy there is upon realizing, in advance, that not all of them will.
Shown as a onetime event at 3 p.m. Sunday in area theaters, the film (plus commentary by star soprano Renee Fleming) more than fulfills the one thing indispensable to documentaries: Real-people faces, easily watched for hours because they so readily reflect an inner life, as they meet one another, go through rehearsals and coachings, and have long backstage waits as others perform. You feel downright protective toward them when the camera goes behind closed doors where judges discuss the singers with clinical frankness.