Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 27th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1999
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Daisuke Tengan
Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda, Toshie Negishi, Ren Osugi
BluRay released: February 29th, 2016
Approximate running time: 115 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Japanese
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £17.99 (UK)
Synopsis: Seven years after the death of his wife, a widower’s son convinces his father that it is time to find a new wife. With the help of a colleague the father holds auditions under the pretense that they are producers casting for a film. From there he connects with one woman in particular whose own grief mirrors his own pain. Has he found the person that will bring joy back into his into life or will the trauma from her past come back to haunt him?
Audition was directed by Takashi Miike, a prolific and diverse filmmaker who has left his undeniable mark in every genre he has worked in. Besides Audition, the film which made him a household name worldwide. Other notable films directed by Miike include, Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Sukiyaki Western Django and Lesson of the Evil.
Key collaborators on Audition include, screenwriter Daisuke Tengan (Master of Horror ‘Imprint’, 13 Assassins) and frequent Miike collaborators cinematographer Hideo Yamamoto (Fudoh: The New Generation, Fireworks) and composer Kôji Endô (The Bird People in China). The screenplay for the film was adapted from Ryû Murakami’s (Tokyo Decadence) novel of the same name.
When one thinks of Horror cinema what often springs to mind are themes about psychopaths who go on a killing spree and the body count that they amass. Another common plot device exploited in Horror cinema are entities that are rooted in the supernatural. And yet despite these tried and true examples of the genre, it is always exhilarating when a filmmaker brings something new to the table. Case in point Takashi Miike’s tour de force exercise in psychological Horror Audition.
From its opening moments it is crystal clear that what is about to unfold in unlike anything that you have ever seen before. And nowhere is this more evident than in the way that it builds up its two main character, a widower named Shigeharu Aoyama and Asami Yamazaki, the young woman he is most drawn to from his auditions. In fact, one could easily argue that is film is two distinctively different halves which ultimately intersect by the film’s climax. With the first half being more rooted in melodrama, while the latter half verging into the realm of Horror.
Without a doubt the most surprising area of this film is its visuals which do job reinforcing the mood. And nowhere is this more evident than how subdued the visuals are throughout the majority of the film. With the majority of operatic moments being confined to glimpses of Asami’s past and the film’s finale. With some of the film standout moments visually traumatic moments from Asami’s past, a scene involving a man being held prisoner in her apartment and of course the film’s climax.
Since the moment that this film was unleashed upon unsuspecting audiences it is a film that divides those who watch it. There seems to be no middle ground with this film Either you embrace this film or you loathe it. With that being said, this is a film that is filled with subtext and those who dig deeper then what is on the surface are sure to get more out of this film.
Anchoring this film are the performances from its two leads, Ryo Ishibashi (Another Lonely Hitman, Suicide Club) in the role of Shigeharu and Eihi Shiina (Tokyo Gore Police, Helldriver) in the role of Asami. And though most films feature a central protagonist. That is not the case here as this film is as much Asami’s story as it is Shigeharu story. Needless to say both actors create utterly convincing performance which resonate long after the film’s moment of truth.
At first glance going so drastically against what the audiences’ expectations would normally be the kiss of death in the eyes of most Horror cinema fans. And yet the end result is an extraordinary film with one of the most potent payoffs in the history of Horror cinema.
Audition comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new 2k transfer has been created from original vault elements. Colors look vibrant, flesh tones look accurate, black levels and shadow detail remain strong throughout and details look crisp. Also grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included. The audio track provided for this release is in excellent shape as dialog is always crystal clear and everything sounds balanced. Range and depth wise this audio mix does not disappoint as every sound are exploited for maximum effect. And when it comes to this film’s score it sounds appropriately robust.
Extras for this release include, reversible cover art, an introduction before the film with director Takashi Miike (1 minute 15 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), an image gallery, the Japanese release trailer (1 minute 38 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and the International release trailer (1 minute 16 seconds), cast & crew interviews – ‘Takashi Miike: Ties that Bind’ (30 minutes 6 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Ryo Ishibashi: Tokyo – Hollywood’ (16 minutes 14 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Eihi Shiina: From Audition to Vampire Girl’ (20 minutes 9 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Renji Ishibashi: Miike’s Toy’ (20 minutes 55 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and ‘Ren Osugi: The Man in the Bag Speaks’ (16 minutes 26 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), a featurette titled ‘Damaged Romance’ an appreciation by Japanese cinema historian Tony Rayns (35 minutes 20 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and two audio commentaries, the first audio commentary with Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan and the second audio commentary with Miike biographer Tom Mes.
Topics discussed in the interview with Takashi Miike include, the importance of Audition in regards to his career, audience’s reaction to the film, author Ryû Murakami and the novel which the film was adapted from, the cast, the character they portray and their performance, how as a filmmaker his is not bound by a signature style and how his most representative film is his next film.
The extra titled ‘Damaged Romance’ is an insightful and informative analysis of Audition.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Tom Mes include, background information about Omega Project the production company that produced the film and the rise of direct to home video cinema in Japan in the 1990’s. Other topics include information about cast & crew and his thoughts on key moments in the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Ryo Ishibashi include, who he began his career in the entertainment industry as a vocalist for a band, how on the advice of filmmaker Yûsaku Matsuda he made the transition to acting, the difficulties of overcoming typecasting, Audition and why he choose to do this film, the cast & his thoughts on their performances, why the film was successful overseas and his thoughts on Audition’s final scene.
Topics discussed in the interview with Eihi Shiina include, how she made the transition from a model to an actress, her first encounter with Takashi Miike and how he helped her prepare to the role, working with Ryo Ishibashi, her thoughts on Audition’s final scene, locations featured in the film, how the most famous line in the film was improvised, the films overseas success and film festivals, Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl.
Topics discussed in the interview with Renji Ishibashi include, collaborating with Takashi Miike and his filmmaking methods, how Miike is always giving him interesting and challenging roles, he reveals his favorite Miike film, his preparation as an actor and the roles that were most difficult and his thoughts on the Roman Porno films that he appeared in.
Topics discussed in the interview with Ren Osugi include, his origins as an actor, his thoughts on the Roman Porno films that he appeared in, collaborating with Takashi Miike and his filmmaking methods, Audition and the extensive amount of special effects makeup required for his role and why he became an actor.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary track with Takashi Miike and Daisuke Tengan include, how Audition has influenced the horror genre, both participants comment on how they were not interested in making a J Horror film and considering the other projects they have worked on that they are two of the least likely people you would expect to make a Horror film, casting and how Miike picks his cast, the differences between American and European audiences reaction to the film, how the film’s ending differs from the source novel and their thoughts on the final product.
Overall Arrow Video gives Audition its most definitive release to date, highly recommended.
Note: Arrow Video are also releasing this film is a dual format Blu-Ray / DVD Steelbook combo.