Audition: Uncut Special Edition Review
Takeshi Miike really needs no introduction. Although he was already prolific prior to Audition‘s release there’s no denying that it spurred on a huge amount of international interest toward him in the wake of other recent Japanese hits such as Ring. Though I don’t mean to label Audition as a horror because in the strictest sense it isn’t. Miike’s dabbling between genres has proven to be unique, which explains time after time why they’re so well received. He’s defied convention, broken rules and set standards for other filmmakers; Audition is of no exception, so it’s time to take a look.
It’s been seven years since the death of his wife; Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) now runs his own little company, which is a moderate success and his son, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) is a good student. One day Shigehiko mentions to his dad that he should think about remarrying; he’s isn’t looking like his old self and he needs a female presence to cheer him up. Shigeharu ponders this and eventually tells his best friend and film producer, Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) that he has decided to look for a woman. Yoshikawa then devises a plan, whereby they can hold auditions for prospective wives; however the women are led to believe that this is all for a legitimate film role. Shigeharu narrows his choice of women down to just thirty, and in the end he chooses a quiet girl named Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina). Unable to get her out of his head, Shigeharu embarks on a romantic quest to woo her and ask for her hand in marriage. Along the way he slowly learns of her past, but is his love truly blind?
Our interest in Audition primarily lies with its characterisation; it is also by far its greatest strength. Miike, as we know is a very methodical man. He knows exactly where his films are headed, how they look and how effective they are at trying the patience of the viewer. For Audition he builds up a solid amount of character depth over a duration of forty-five minutes. Early on we presume to be watching a film about loss, loneliness and insecurity, which then moves on to newly acquired love, where it then starts to create dilemmas for its protagonist, before presenting the final, shocking ultimatum for the last act. So yes there is well over an hour of simple talking and pondering, which does make us wonder where everything is going, but Miike wouldn’t have this any other way. Sure it’s a slow burner of a film and to be perfectly honest it doesn’t move in leaps and bounds to provide anything that we haven’t seen before already. But then the director twists his knife and the film suddenly becomes about what would happen if you place these figures in inescapable scenarios and presented them with the macabre.
Audition has built up such a reputation that it’s become famed for Asami’s haunting words, along with Miike’s trademark violence. However, those new to the film would be best advised to throw away any preconceptions because otherwise they’ll likely find disappointment within. The film’s climax is indeed shocking and ultimately rewarding; I winced a number of times which not only says that I’m a big girl but also proves that Miike is masterful at racking up horror and suspense, even when there is physically little to see. Audition‘s final moments are empowering examples of filmmaking to say the least, but the events that lead up to them are a whole lot more fulfilling, and it must be remembered that this is largely a drama. Still, the final revelation is far from surprising as the director signposts several scenes and sets up Asami early on in a way that tells us that there’s a lot more to her than just an innocent front. But then marketing can be blamed for ultimatly damaging the experience somewhat, because we know to expect that Asami is a bit mental. The result is still effective in its execution. So then, Miike can be accused on two fronts of deliberately trying to shock for the sake of shocking and also directing in a deliberatly slow - and at times - mundane manner. But then that would appear to be the entire point; by taking the seemingly dull lives of its main characters and then giving them a playground in which to vent themselves.
Despite the relatively bleak look on things, Miike manages to inject some fine humour; particularly during the audition process, which goes on to open up the lead characters more, before he turns his attention on their downward spiral. He then gets into Lynchian mode, which of course means that everything turns upside down and the narrative breaks in a bid to confound. At one point he uses one of the oldest clichés in the book to resolve things, and yet no sooner has he revealed his reveal does he then take a step back, just so that he can deliberately wind up the viewer and have a good chuckle to himself. But we can’t hate him for that, because in the end his motives are clear; his characters and we, the viewer need that closure to bring things around full circle.
Audition has been released on DVD so many times that I’ve lost count. Well now it’s available uncut in the USA, courtesy of Lions Gate Films. I should point out that this uncut version applies to the USA only, as we’ve been fortunate enough over here to see it as intended.
Presented anamorphically at 1.85:1 Audition has something of a mixed transfer. The image is generally well detailed, although it exhibits softness in several areas. Edge Enhancement is thick enough to be distracting during scenes that involve characters placed against white backgrounds, while a spot of aliasing rears its annoying, jaggy head. In terms of colour, flesh tones are pleasing, black levels are good (though show up some compression difficulties in spots) and contrast is at an acceptable level. This may disappoint some to learn that the film has been transferred from PAL>NTSC. Despite it being listed as 115 minutes in length it actually runs to 110, just like the PAL version and shows considerable ghosting throughout.
For sound we get Japanese DD2.0 and DD5.1 surround. I opted for the latter which is both impressive and jarring, but messed up in places. Early on it doesn’t sound too promising, particularly during the scene when Aoyama and his son are fishing at the sea side. There’s a horrible tinny sound, which takes over all the speakers and makes the actors sound like robots; I compared it to the 2.0 alternative which proved to be better but still isn‘t as brilliant as one would like. Elsewhere dialogue is generally good, though I cant say much more than that. However when it comes to particular sequences there are some truly frightening examples where it can be praised. Phones ringing are really creepy and I defy anyone not to jump at least once. Certainly the latter portion of the film fares best of all, and the moments of tension are effectively handled, which should please at least those looking for something a little uncomfortable from their films.
Optional English subtitles are included but feature some ropey grammar, with examples such as “oaky” instead of “okay”. Little things like this crop up several times but don’t hinder the subtitles too much as they’re fairly obvious mistakes. Even so that doesn’t excuse poor quality control.
DVD Introduction with Director Takeshi Miike (4:15)
Miike introduces us to his film; citing it as being something different from the usual horror. In fact he doesn’t refer to this as a horror at all but lists examples like Juon and Ring. He then talks a little about the film’s characters and asks us to enjoy.
Select Scene Commentary with Director Takeshi Miike
From chapter sixteen onwards you can listen to someone acting as Miike; this may put off some listeners, because it is an unusual way of presenting an audio commentary. I can’t understand why they never just subtitled the original Japanese track but at least all the info is here. I‘m not sure why he only covers the last act, perhaps because he has very little to say about the relatively routine set up. There are some points of interest raised, although to be perfectly honest its hardly engaging. While Miike covers some ground on the ending sequence, he tends to just role with things and lend his opinions on the characters, who we can pretty much work out for ourselves. In all we don’t really get to learn that much and I’m sorry to say that even for fans this might prove to be disappointing.
Interview with Director Takeshi Miike (23:48)
Again we have to put up with Miike being dubbed over by a mysterious voice-over man who probably does anime or something. For this interview though Miike manages to provide a far more interesting discussion on the film than with his previous commentary; perhaps because this time he’s actually being prompted. He starts off by mentioning the transition from script to film and gives us a little insight on the overall development of the feature. He’s also asked to compare his film with his previous efforts, which were largely action oriented, and how he felt about certain actors coming onboard; particularly the leads who came from quite different backgrounds. Naturally he’s later asked about whether or not he draws upon his own experiences when making films, before being asked some dopey questions; one of which wanting to know if he did rogue acupuncture on Ishibashi. Unsurprisingly Miike announces that no, he did not poke real needles into Ishibashi’s eyes. Toward the end he’s asked about his influences, to which he promptly replies, finishing up by talking about the mentality behind making motion pictures.
Twenty photos that aren’t really worth a look, considering that they just look like screen caps taken from the film.
Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments Segment (3:11)
Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Linda Marotta, John Landis talk about why Audition is so effective as a scary film.
Interview with Ryu Murakami (24:27)
Novelist and director, Ryu Murakami talks about his feelings toward the script adaptation, which initially weren’t particularly strong. After seeing the film he realised that Miike had stuck closely to the source material, which is often a rare thing for the director. He’s asked about how much time he spent consulting with Miike, which we learn was very little and is prompted to talk about the more difficult representations of the film. This leads him to discuss the characters, casting and eventual portrayals, as well as Miike’s overall pacing. Character development and transitions are looked upon, which goes delves into particular mindsets, and then Murakami is asked about how he came up with such a horrific story, to which he provides some interesting answers. He regards the movie as a horror/suspense with humanised characters and he gives explanations with regards to its realism and how the dark themes lean toward the darkness of man. He also mentions that he and Miike are discussing adapting another one of his novels, though he doesn’t say which as nothing has been confirmed. I presume he might be talking about Coin Locker Babies, but that looks to have found a director. This is a decent interview which explores some interesting territories, and unlike the previous commentary and interview this has optional English subtitles and features the original Japanese audio. The quality itself isn’t too great; presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1and being a little too dark but it’s good enough not to be distracting.
Here you‘ll find previews for The Eye 2, Premonition, Infection, Juon, American Psycho and Waiting.
Audition is in places exactly what people would have you to believe: shocking, disgusting, sickening, but above all it’s human. At no point do we question its credibility, because we believe in its characters, and we realise that each one has his or her purpose, which has been triggered at some point during their lonely existence. Audition could be praised as a social critique, although I’m inclined to go against this notion, as I would be for several other Miike films. But what does Miike teach us in the end, if anything? Well simply this:
Listen to your friend’s advice.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:35:58