Director: Takashi Miike
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Purchase: Amazon [affiliate link]
This product was provided to us by Arrow Video for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
It’s been nearly two decades since director Takashi Miike broke through his straight-to-video roots and became internationally known. When festivals began picking up his work in 1999, three films that would cement his audacious style and boundary-pushing content.
Ley Lines was the final entry into his Black Society trilogy; Dead or Alive was the first in a new crime trilogy; and Audition was a dark horror film adapted from a Ryu Murakami novel. The latter was the one film that put Miike’s name on the cinematic map, letting viewers know that, whenever they go into one of his movies, it will be anything but boring.
My love for Asian cinema began in the late nineties, right when Miike began his prolific career of churning out title after title, and I remember visiting the Charles theater in Baltimore in 2001, seeing a poster for Audition and instantly becoming infatuated with this mysterious looking feature. My anticipation was not left unsatiated, as I was able to see it until a year later when it released in the U.S. on DVD. This was one of the craziest, most disturbing films I had seen, and after rewatching it for the newly released Arrow Blu-ray, I can safely say that, 20 years later, it still makes me squirm.
Ryo Ishibashi stars as Shigeharu, an executive for a film company and widower of seven years who decides it’s time to remarry at the suggestion of his teenage son. Rather than dating the old-fashioned way, he agrees to hold auditions for a fake movie after his friend comes up with the scheme.
Upon reviewing the essays that the unknowing potential suitors had written, he quickly gravitates toward one woman named Asami, played by Eihi Shiina. After a successful audition, Shigeharu begins courting Asami, but what he doesn’t realize is that she is not the innocent flower he initially believes her to be.
Crafting a pitch-perfect, slow-burn horror, Miike faithfully adapts Murakami’s novel, managing to both intrigue and horrify audiences with its complex female lead and gut-wrenching finale. Most people who experienced this movie will forever have Asami’s eerie chanting of “kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri” burned into their memories as she mercilessly tortures her prey.
The film was screened so much at festivals around the country that the original camera negative became damaged, so it’s fortunate that Arrow Video has performed a new 2K restoration of the film from the original vault elements. It doesn’t look amazing, with the picture always carrying a slightly washed-out, foggy veneer, but this is how the original version was always presented and presumably how it was filmed at the beginning. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio ensures we hear every pin prick in vivid detail, although I found the dialogue to be a bit muted, again a result of the original product.
Bonus content on the disc includes an introduction from a strangely nervous Takashi Miike; an appreciation of the film by Japanese cinema historian Tony Rayns; new interviews with the cast and crew, including Miike, Ryo Ishibashi and Eihi Shiina; and two commentary tracks — one with Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan and also a newly recorded track with Miike biographer Tom Mes. As with all Arrow video releases, there’s a reversible cover, and the first printing contains a 15-page booklet with essays and technical specifications.
Audition remains one of the best films in the now-vast filmography of one of Japan’s most prolific directors, and its shocking content has easily held up since its release in 1999. This new Blu-ray edition is the most complete version of the film to date and is an easy recommendation to any collector.