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Review: Audition (Blu-ray)


Richard Cosgrove sees if he has what it takes to pass Takashi Miike's Audition...

There are some films that once seen are never forgotten. Audition is one of these films. Having first seen Takashi Miike’s arguably most famous and notorious movie some fifteen years ago, the memory of how it quite simply stunned me back then has never quite faded, and so returning to it for the first time in a decade and a half it was a pleasant surprise to discover that not only has Audition lost none of its power to shock and horrify in the intervening years, but that it’s actually a much deeper, entertaining and, yes, funnier film that I’d remembered.

For those unfamiliar with the film it works best going into it knowing as little as possible, but the basic plot revolves around widower Shigharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) being persuaded by his son Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) that seven years of being alone is long enough and that he should find himself a new wife to ease his loneliness. Aoyama is persuaded by his film producer friend Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) that they should hold the titular audition under the pretence of casting a film, but in reality to allow Aoyama to be presented with various candidates for his affections.

To say much more is to deny the new viewer the opportunity to discover the journey that Miike takes us through various genres, from the family drama of Aoyama losing his wife, to the almost comedic nature of the auditions, through the pseudo rom-com of Aoyama taking his chosen auditionee Asami (Eihi Shiina) on several endearingly awkward dates, to the mystery of just who Asami is, and finally to the gut wrenching final act that had audience members literally crawling from the screenings when Audition first played the festival circuit.

For the first eighty-five minutes of its running time, Audition slowly wraps its audience up in an engaging and almost comfortable blending of these genres, subtly turning up the tension with just the occasional suggestion of the gruelling viewing experience that it becomes for the final half an hour, and this makes the final act all the more shocking when it comes. What Audition doesn’t do, however, is provide full closure, leaving the viewer to make up their own mind as to what they’ve just experienced, and it is an experience as while Audition is not an easy ride, it will leave an indelible mark on the psyche and a lasting impression on the memory.

Presented in a gorgeous new 2K restoration by Arrow Films, Audition looks absolutely stunning, and along with the original 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio it feels as contemporary today as it did back on its 1999 release. Extras, as always from Arrow Films, are bountiful, with two commentaries (one by Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan, the other by Miike biographer Tom Mes), a short introduction from Miike as well as a brand new interview, further interviews with stars Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Renji Ishibashi and Ren Osugi, trailers, and a fascinating thirty minute documentary called Damaged Romance in which Japanese cinema historian Tony Rayns discusses the film.

If you’ve seen Audition, then you’ll already know what an important, impressive and powerful J-horror film this is and there should be no excuse for not adding this new Arrow Films release to your collection, but if you haven’t then you’re in for a treat.

Audition is out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Films.

5 stars


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