Audition starts with the heart-wrending situation for Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) whose wife, Ryoko (Miyuki Matsuda), passes away. Seven years later, his son wants him to marry again. It’s not an easy task to meet women when you’re older, so when a friend of his Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) is casting for a new movie, they also throw in the hidden agenda of finding a new wife for Shigeharu. Out of the 30 he chooses to parade up and down in front of him, the one he’ll ultimately choose – who catches his eye from the profiles early on – is Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina, who looks like she’s grown up from Alma in the F.E.A.R. videogame series), and while they say the path of true love never runs smooth, he really gets more than he bargained for with this one.
In fact, you’ll have his early words ringing in your ears later, as he’s talking to Yasuhisa in a bar, saying “I wish a gorgeous woman were hiding somewhere”, adding “I just don’t want to make a mistake at my age. I want time to get to know her really well”. Hmm… 😉
Then again, if you think Asami is, to coin the phrase from Dame Denise Van Outen, “mental, mental, chicken oriental”, then it could’ve been worse for him – he could’ve tried dating through Plenty of Fish!
And many J-Horror films I’ve seen rarely make a whole heap of sense but that doesn’t matter too much.
Like a lot of Arrow Blu-ray presentations, I hadn’t got round to seeing this in its previous DVD release or elsewhere, and so all I knew about what made her different was with a picture involving a syringe. I, therefore, don’t want to go too much into detail about what’s onscreen so I’ll just say I’m not normally squeamish, but I was wincing like a child as if all of the pain inflicted in this film were being directed towards me. Imagine if Dexter had become female and gone completely around the fucking bend. Audition is like Stephen King’s Misery but with bells on!
There’s an option to play the film with an intro lasting 1:15 from director Takashi Miike where he hints that there are elements that he’d change and that he hopes everyone enjoys the film, but while it was something incredible, it did take a fair while to get to that point, with the main situation happening in the last 30-35 minutes of the film. Once I’d seen it in its entireity, I could see the need to do that, but I still felt it dragged a little before getting there.
The film is presented in the original 1.85 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and although the film is only 16 years old, and given the restoration work carried out on the print, detailed below, quite often it has a grainy appearance.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, and while the audio is mostly dialogue and some background music, there’s occasionally split-surround effects used to spice up the atmosphere to a superb effect.
Taken from the Collector’s booklet about the video and audio transfer:“Audition has been exclusively restored in 2K resolution for this release by Arrow Films. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 5.1 sound. The original 35mm Interpositive was scanned in 2K resolution on a pinregistered 4K ArriScan and was graded on Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris and light scratches were removed through a combination of digital restoration tools. Overall image stability and instances of density fluctuation were also improved. At a few points during the film there are noticeable jump-cuts within shots. This is as per the film’s original release and has been maintained for this presentation.
The original soundtracks were transferred and mixed from the original magnetic reels by Co-Production Office, France, and were conformed and restored at Deluxe Restoration, London.”
Being an Arrow release, and just struggling to maintain my composure having viewed the movie, I move on to the extras. Note that there may be elements within that contain spoilers so it may be best not to read these before you’ve seen the film. So, just buy it and watch it all:
- Interviews: There are five interviews here and, like the director’s intro, for no apparent reason, each segment is a 16:9 piece anamorphically-squeezed into a 4:3 ratio. I’m not quite sure what’s happened at Arrow’s end, here, or if this is the way the extras were delivered to them, but even if that was the case, then they could easily have corrected this. Given that my Blu-ray player is connected to my TV via HDMI, this is not something that can be corrected via my TV’s aspect ratio settings. In addition, there are no chapters to these interviews, which is a shame.
- The first one I had to jump in with was Eihi Shiina: From Audition to Vampire Girl (20:09) where the main lady talks about meeting the director and how her audition was less than conventional as it started off more like a chat about male and female twisted love relationships before she started to act for the part. She also drops in other film roles including Tokyo Gore Police. This piece was filmed in 2009, as was also one for her main co-star, Ryo Ishibashi: Tokyo – Hollywood (16:14), plus Renji Ishibashi: Miike’s Toy (20:55 – Without giving spoilers, this is the wheelchair-bound guy who we see playing the piano); and Ren Ôsugi: The Man in the Bag speaks (16:26), who’s here with all his limbs intact, thankfully.
The only new interview from this batch comes from the director – Takashi Miike: Ties That Bind (30:06), who said he knew when cinema audiences took his film seriously as he saw them leaving the auditorium.
- Damaged Romance: An appreciation by Tony Rayns (35:20): The British screenwriter, commentator and film festival programmer talks about what he loves about Audition and the work of the director.
- Trailers: A Japanese trailer (1:38) and an Intentional trailer (1:16), with a warning before the former that it contains spoilers (and how!) and that it’s better to see the latter instead if you haven’t seen the film. Then again, I’d recommend just watching the film before seeing the trailers.
- Gallery: 16 on-set images.
- Audio commentaries: Two here. The first is from director Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan, with the second from film critic, lover of Japanese cinema and Miike biographer Tom Mes, also a key contributor to Midnight Eye, examining the film and its source novel.
- Collector’s booklet: A 20-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Anton Bitel.
- Reversible sleeve: featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin.
Subtitles are optional and in English, the main menu features clips from the film set to the upbeat end credits music, but when it comes to chapters, there’s an incredibly low NINE! What??
Audition is out now on Blu-ray/DVD Double Pack Limited Edition and Steelbook Limited Edition, the latter of which is just £2 more, at the time of posting this, so you know which version to buy! Also, check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 116 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: February 29th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (35mm)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Takashi Miike
Producer: David Sheldon
Screenplay: Daisuke Tengan (based on the novel by Ryû Murakami)
Music: Kôji Endô
Shigeharu Aoyama: Ryo Ishibashi
Asami Yamazaki: Eihi Shiina
Shigehiko Aoyama: Tetsu Sawaki
Yasuhisa Yoshikawa: Jun Kunimura
Old man in wheelchair: Renji Ishibashi
Ryoko Aoyama: Miyuki Matsuda
Rie: Toshie Negishi
Shimada: Ren Ôsugi
Toastmaster: Shigeru Saiki
Director: Ken Mitsuishi
Michiyo Yanagida: Yuriko Hiro’oka
TV station presenter: Fumiyo Kohinata
Misuzu Takagi: Misato Nakamura
Shigehiko as a child: Yuuto Arima
Asami as a child: Ayaka Izumi
Hotel front desk: Nattsu Tanabashi
FM announcer: Kimiko Tachibana
Doctor: Tatsuo Endô
Nurse: Koshio Jindôji
Bartender: Kanji Tsuda
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.