Collector’s Edition

Shout Factory | 1999 | 115 mins. | Not rated

Japanese director Takashi Miike is an extremely prolific artist; a quick look at his credits at reveals some years with as much as half-a-dozen feature releases to his name. Despite his amazing output, Miike remains largely unknown. I have seen two of his films; 2001’s Ichi the Killer, a bloodbath of a film which did gain him some notice in the States, and 1999’s Audition, which is being given a Blu-ray release by Shout Factory. Extremely controversial from the moment it was released, it should be said right off the top that Audition is not for the faint of heart; the content is graphic and some viewers may find it too horrific for their tastes.

Based on a story by Ryu Murakami, Audition is one of those films that can fool you. For nearly an hour, it has the look and feel of a Japanese drama. The story seems like a simple one about a middle-classfather and his son attempting to get on with their lives after the death of his wife, seven years before. This part of the film is so quiet and understated it’s easy to imagine some viewers becoming bored enough to shut the movie off altogether. Things change very quickly though; Miike does away with narrative, and plunges viewers into a world of dream sequences and intense reality that is clearly meant to shock the senses.

TV producer Aoyama Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) is the aforementioned middle-class man, Aoyama (Tetsu Sawaki) his teenage son. When the son tells his father that he’s looking old, he begins to consider remarrying. The only problem is, after so many years of not dating, Shigeharu has no idea how to go about finding the right woman. A movie producer friend (Jun Kunimura) suggests that he hold auditions for a script that’s not going to be produced and use that process to screen a large quantity of women at one time.

Aoyama is immediately enchanted by Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), a 24-year-old woman with a soft voice and reserved, yet confident, mannerisms. In her audition, Asami says that she was once a ballerina headed for greatness, but had to give up dancing after an injury. Aoyama is attracted to her apparent emotional depth. As their courtship proceeds, little hints pop up to suggest that there are dark secrets in Asami’s past. Though she may seem enchanting, it’s clear from the start that something is “off.” Stone-faced nearly all the time, the tension that her presence causes is impossible to ignore.  When Asami suddenly disappears from the resort the couple agrees to share, and Aoyama searches for his runaway bride-to-be, a truly disturbing picture of her life begins to emerge.


In the third and final act, Audition unspools into a truly horrific exercise. Utterly terrifying and grisly, Takashi Miike created one of the most graphic and grotesque scenes in all of horror—an exploitive grindhouse style monstrosity that even some of horrors biggest champions have found hard to watch. The final act will undoubtedly satisfy those that love splatter, the long wait to get there combined with the fact that the ending feels somewhat inevitable, diminishes some of the effect.

Shout Factory’s 1080p, 1.78:1 aspect ratio Blu-ray presentation, far outpaces previous DVD releases of Audition. While Miike’s visual style is fairly mundane throughout the film, it adds to the overall mood of the piece. Despite this, skintones are rich. Fine detail remains visible throughout these scenes, though spotted through a generous veil of film grain. The cold audition room keeps its clammy appearance, while the semi-dark contours of Aoyama’s home support an attractive rendering of some black levels. However, the print Shout Factory used isn’t in the best shape, showcasing a somewhat drastic level of film speckling, reel-shift markers, and a few instances of age-staining against lop-sided points on the image.

Despite these issues, Shout Factory has done a solid job maintain color balance when the film required it and giving things a commendable sense of depth. While this definitely isn’t the best high-definition transfer I’ve ever seen, fans of Audition will agree that Shout factory has provided the best transfer yet.

Audition comes with both lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio 5.0 mixes from the original audio elements, the boost in clarity will be substantially appreciated for those with a discerning ear. Surround elements stretch to the rear-channels in fine fashion, offering some environmental. The sound effects that really matter—metallic, rolling thuds, and crash-worthy blasts—find solid separation and naturalness with this haunting mix. Some lower-frequency activity would’ve been nice in a few scenes, but this is a largely dynamic and enveloping mix.

Subtitles are provided in English.

Audition has the following special features:

The edition comes with a standard DVD of the film, and some of the features are contained on that version.

  • Commentary with Takashi Miike and Saisuke Tengan (On Blu-ray)
    Moderated by writer Masato Kobayashi, the discussion shows exactly why he rarely performs commentaries alone, as he gets nearly silent in the middle of the discussion. However, this is a very insightful commentary that touches on many of the filmic parts of Audition, as well as some probing on Saisuke Tengan on adapting the film from Ryū Murakami’s novel. Some discussion falls on the amount (or lack of) makeup on Eihi Shiina, as well as a writer’s relationship as a regular writer for a director.
  • Interviews (1:13:44 complete, 16×9 on DVD):
    Several interviews are available on the bonus disc from Audition‘s actors. Each of the interviews from Outcast Cinema contains tons of raw interview footage.

    • Ryo Ishibashi (16:18) discusses the differences between working on Miike’s set and performing on-stage as a musician, about working against his Yakuza typecasting,etc. Eihi Shiina(20:03) discusses her career before Audition, about how working in the final scene wasn’t as disturbing as it seems due to her commitment to Asami as a character, and about how fans react to her presence after all these years. Renji Ishibashi (20:54) discussing his experience with Miike working on The Bird People of China (another film that desperately needs a better home video presentation) as well as sexuality, while Ren Osugi (16:24) discusses pink films and waiting with horrific makeup on for several hours.
    • Trailers (On DVD):
    • International Trailer (1:17, 4×3) and one Japanese Trailer (1:47, 4×3), as well as video Introductions from director Takashi Miike and Eihi Shiina at the start of the film (1:03).

[xrrgroup][xrr label=”Video:” rating=”4.0/5″ group=”s1″ ] [xrr label=”Audio:” rating=”4.0/5″ group=”s1″] [xrr label=”Extras:” rating=”3.0/5″ group=”s1″] [xrr label=”Film Value:” rating=”3.0/5″ group=”s1″] [/xrrgroup]