Sunday, 28 February 2016

Audition (1999)

“Cold, clinical, bone-scraping horror classic”

Don’t you just love movies you can watch over and over again? Ones that never seem to get old? That offer something new on each viewing? Something you’ve never really picked up on before? And don’t you love it when films don’t just do that, but also provide you with a final act that’s so extreme you realise that as well as appreciating the subtleties you’re discovering on each viewing you’re also dreading the out-and-out horror that’s going to come in about an hour’s time?

Japanese director Takashi Miike’s AUDITION is now on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Films. A film that has always looked cold and grainy on both VHS and DVD, the Blu-ray presentation of this one is exceptionally fine, still keeping the image dispassionately clinical for most of the running time while making everything look crisper, clearer, and if anything, colder.

So what’s the plot? Seven years after the death of his wife TV executive Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) decides he wants to remarry, but doesn’t know how to go about finding ‘the right girl’. He lists what he considers to be the appropriate attributes of his new future wife to his boss Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), who hits on a “brilliant” idea. They will set up a fake audition at the studio for the lead in a fake film. Aoyama can look through the applicants’ CVs, shortlist them, and interview with Yoshikawa. Then the one he likes the most he can ring up and take out for a date, explaining later that she didn’t get the part after all.

Of course, seemingly sweet, polite, innocent Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) doesn’t turn out to be what Aoyama initially think she is at all. What’s that thing in the sack? Where did those marks on her legs come from? Who taught her ballet for 12 years and how much torture porn was involved? All this and more is revealed, culminating in an ending that is all the more effective for the slow build-up to it.

Despite AUDITION being famous for its climax of unrelenting horror, it’s worth paying attention throughout Miike’s film. Both dialogue and situations reveal a great deal about the lead character’s relationship with women, but Miike’s framing of many scenes (for example in the bar) has a lot to say as well. It’s difficult to take it all in on a single viewing, especially as you’re going to come away thinking about nothing but THAT ending, but then that’s what the Blu-ray’s for, isn’t it?

As well as a sparkling transfer, Arrow’s Blu-ray comes with a Takashi Miike introduction and commentary from previous releases, plus a brand new commentary from Miike biographer Tom Mes which also discusses the source novel. There’s a new Miike interview, as well as interviews with four cast members including the two leads. Tony Rayns rounds off a very respectable package with his appreciation of the works of Miike in general and AUDITION in particular. An excellent presentation of a film that more than deserves it.

Arrow Films are bringing out Takashi Miike's AUDITION in dual format Blu-ray & DVD standard and steelbook editions on 29th February 2016

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