'Audition: Special Edition'
(Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1999) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.
Blu-ray Verdict: One of the most shocking J-horror films ever made, 'Audition' exploded onto the festival circuit at the turn of the century to a chorus of awards and praise.
The film would catapult Miike to the international scene and pave the way for such other genre delights as Ichii the Killer and The Happiness of the Katakuris.
Utterly disturbed, weird and at times very shocking, 'Audition' (if you haven't ever seen it before) is one of those under the radar flicks that has to be seen at least once by fans of the genre.
To say outright that it's a horror film in the traditional sense wouldn't be entirely accurate, even if it has a hand in some previous films about men involved with women who aren't 'quite right' like Play Misty For Me or Fatal Attraction.
In the last half hour, of course, it really digs deep into such a surreal, cringe-worthy set of moments that are meant to push buttons and they do because of Miike's relentlessness with his style.
He, along with Ichi cinematographer and editor Hideo Yamamoto and Yasushi Shimamura, define such a mood as to go beyond what would normally be in an exploitation picture.
In the climax it's less about what torture is being done (though it is graphic to be sure) as how it's done, what thought process is behind it.
This represents what has already built up as a sad story that (arguably) earns the right to suddenly go into the experimental, the strange, and the horrific.
This is also assisted greatly by the performances. Ryo Ishibashi is very convincing at the start as a widowed man with a son who is fairly ordinary and running his business without much trouble.
When he begins an audition with his business partner (Kill Bill's Jun Kunimara), he finds immediately a woman who intrigues him by what she (Eihi Shiina, the kind of actress with the right look and stark attitude the character absolutely requires) writes in her resume.
Instead of an audition, it's a relationship that unfolds between him and her, and it leads to him almost proposing marriage to her.
But after a night of tenderness between them where she says "only you to love" (which is amazingly lit in a beautiful blue hue), she's gone, and his search for her winds up in finding some things he shouldn't, and finally to the climax.
But before that happens, what could be called a mind-f***er occurs through Miike going through what could be either a dream, a hallucination, or both, which leads up to that scene in Aoyama's house.
In truth, sure, at the end, I also sort of shook my head, almost wondering what I had seen. A lot of the film speaks clearly to Miike being a truly gifted storyteller and controller of mood, though at the same time the sort of exceptional whiplash sort of surprised me.
In the end I almost thought Miike would pull a twister ala The Usual Suspects, but then got pulled back into it again.
It's in turns romantic and somber, gripping and deep, and it puts films like Misty and Attraction almost to shame in a way.
And, of course, it IS a Miike movie, though a different bird than Ichi is achieving its goals. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restoriation of original vault elements
Original 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary with director Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan
Brand new commentary by Miike biographer Tom Mes examining the film and its source novel
Introduction by Miike
Ties that Bind A brand new interview with Takashi Miike
Interviews with stars Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Renji Ishibashi and Ren Osugi
Damaged Romance: An appreciation by Japanese cinema historian Tony Rayns
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel