Please note this release is largely unavailable to buy since Tartan re-released the film in a "Collector's Edition" version which exhibits a far superior transfer that is virtually identical to the one found on the Rapid Eye Movies release.
From one of Japan's top directors Takeshi Miike comes a film that has been shocking audiences throughout the art house circuits around the world for well over a year now. Having finally received a UK DVD release courtesy of Tartan Video last year you can now also find a German DVD release via Rapid Eye Movies so those who are unfortunate enough to not live in the vicinity of a decent art house cinema can finally experience another of the many superb Horror films to have come from Japan in recent years. Sadly Audition is a film that really deserves to be seen with the viewer holding the minimal of knowledge regarding the films plot and more importantly the images you see within, not an easy feat with the proliferation of film spoilers that are found on the Internet these days. With that in mind this review features a minimal selection of images that have been carefully chosen unlike those featured on the Tartan DVD Cover (and sadly the Rapid Eye Movies release suffers the same fate) where they have obviously gone for images that will pull in the more casual Horror Movie fan although to be fair the Theatrical Trailer contains all of these images and more. Keeping with the spoiler free state of mind my description of the film will be minimal (which is more than I can say for the almost complete story rundown on the back of the Tartan DVD Cover) but hopefully effective.
After the death of his wife Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi who you may have seen in Takeshi Kitano's Brother) is left with the responsibility of raising his son. Seven years pass and Shigeharu's son is now a young man and rather cheekily suggests that his Dad should find a new wife, as he is getting old. This is a suggestion that Shigeharu decides to act upon and after a discussion with a friend who is in the film business said friend suggests they set up a fake audition where Shigeharu can choose a prospective partner. While it is not the most honourable of methods Shigeharu goes ahead with the idea and in the process becomes captivated with Asami (Eihi Shiina in a stunning debut performance), a young girl with whom he strikes up a relatively natural relationship that eventually spirals towards a whole new direction for the films final reel.
Audition succeeds by drawing the audience in using a traditional tale of romance with mere hints as to what lies beneath the characters. It is the structure and masterful direction from Miike that really allows Audition to work as not only does he offer us glimpses at the horror that will eventually be unveiled (to quite terrifying effect) but he uses some wonderfully clever yet subtle editing techniques during the many conversations between Shigeharu and Asami that suggests we are not being told the entire story, but more importantly that Shigeharu is not taking on board everything he is learning about Asami. Of course not all the credit can go to the director as without the superb screenplay, the fine cast and most importantly for a horror film, an evocative original score from composer Koji Endo Audition would not be all it is.
For anyone who has seen a selection of Japanese films (especially Takeshi Kitano titles) then you will no doubt know what to expect as far as the films pacing is concerned. Many would say Audition is slow while others will see it as a delicately paced film that through the superb story and acting performances skilfully uses touches of black humour as it builds up the tension to near bursting point levels whereupon it finally rips into your chest and keeps a tight hold right up until the final credits roll. This is a thoroughly engrossing film that has a pure intensity that can truly disturb the viewer to a point I have not witnessed in a long time and then on subsequent viewings you can draw out more of its subtleties that only heighten the films impact.
While Audition will surely not appease the insatiable desires of the teen hack and slash horror markets it will certainly appeal to those looking for a film that is not only more intelligently written and directed but ultimately intensely horrifying. My final words that sum up the film for those who have seen Audition are simply "kiri, kiri, kiri..."
Please note I have since reviewed and provided a comparison of this disc with a superior German R0 release of Audition from Rapid Eye Movies which prompted a harsher re-write of the Picture segment of this review.
Audition (German Release) Review Here
More recently Tartan have delved into the world of the Anamorphic Transfer and while Audition benefits from this enhancement (much like their recent Ring 2 DVD) this transfer still lacks the quality one would like from such a recent title. Maintaining the original 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio the print used is in decent condition featuring very few signs of dirt but sadly like practically every other title on the Tartan label the subtitles are yet again burnt in to the image. While detail throughout is reasonable scenes are let down by an abundance of extremely unnatural looking grain and the occasional instability of the image that leads to a few rare signs of aliasing (the blinds in Shigeharu's office for example). The colour reproduction is faithful to the films unique palette but the black levels have been hugely overdone which results in an overly dark image that renders several scenes all but devoid of detail and leaves us with a transfer that is watchable but sadly extremely lacking when you consider how these titles can look when given the proper treatment.
The Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 track is your standard Stereo track that makes little to no use of your surround set-up but for the most part presents the audio as you would expect although there is an unwanted audible hiss that varies in loudness throughout but never really ruins the experience. Apart from the basic presentation of the sound my only other annoyance in this area are the previously mentioned burnt in subtitles that while presenting a decent translation are just not acceptable with the matured market for foreign language DVDs. Suffering from the typical problems of a white font over white backgrounds (that are fortunately few and far between in this film) the subtitles are generally easy to read and feature very few spelling mistakes.
Tartan have managed to include several extras on this disc of which the most significant is a 14-minute interview with Director Takashi Miike that covers some interesting points regarding the film but sadly it feels a little shallow when you see that this is the only extra feature of any real substance provided on this disc. The only other extras consist of two original Trailers (European and Japanese), four (yes, just four!) pieces of Poster Artwork in the Photo Gallery, Star and Director filmographies (simply a list of films related to the Director and Actors), Film Notes from Chris Campion who provides an interesting insight to the film (and his writing benefits from the fact that he is writing for the audience who have already viewed Audition) and finally a Screensaver for both PC & Mac owners. An Extreme Asia Trailer section rounds up this disc with Trailers for other Tartan DVDs including Hard Boiled, Ring 1 and 2 and Nowhere To Hide.
Audition offers an alternative look into the world of horror and is masterfully directed by Miike who has already established himself with this and other titles coming to the Tartan label as a Director to watch. In light of the recent Rapid Eye Movies release of Audition this effort from Tartan is decidedly poor and only really worth a look if you are renting or purchasing on sale.