Takashi Miike's truly shocking and haunting beauty horror gets a much-needed Blu-ray spit and polish
Audition’s rise to infamy in 1999 was swift, meteoric and, like any game-changing horror film worth its salt, shrouded in tales of hysterical receptions at film festivals worldwide. In Rotterdam, audiences walked out in record numbers; viewers in Switzerland fainted, requiring paramedics, and director Takashi Miike was verbally attacked at showings. “You’re evil!” they screamed.
Both a commercial and critical success, Miike hit a cultural nerve with his ingenious deadly twist on Japanese femininity and self-aware Orientalism bound within a typically Japanese aesthetic, a theatre of cruelty and stillness. Released a year after Hideo Nakata’s Ring, Audition hailed an unprecedented era of J-horror dominance. Its success made unlikely allies of horror/gore fans and avant-garde cineastes, both finding something appealing in its visceral resistance to mainstream Hollywood cinema.
To give away the plot to those lucky enough to experience Audition for the first time would be criminal (akin to revealing the twist in The Sixth Sense). In short: widower Aoyama holds bogus film auditions looking for the perfect replacement wife. Miike cleverly builds the film slowly and quietly, with the first two thirds playing like a prestige indie drama – only the odd schism of horror is briefly visible. With escalating unease and a switch and bait that Hitchcock would be proud of, Audition culminates in its infamously disturbing dénouement.
Arrow’s new Blu-ray/DVD may be worth it alone for the newly commissioned, suitably creepy artwork by Matthew Griffin, though oddly the iconic image of Asami with needle has been flipped. As attached as fans maybe to the now defunct Tartan Asia Extreme Blu-ray, Arrow’s 2k restoration is desperately needed, as Tartan did little to improve the grainy picture of its original VHS release. Multiple extras abound: new interviews and commentary with the main cast, Miike and Japanese cinephile Tony Rayns.
Released on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Films – order your copy at Arrow's website