One of the most amazing things about film, especially powerful films, is their ability to change with the viewer. I have just watched Audition for the third time for this review. When I first viewed it close to ten years ago, I was an adventurous horror fan looking for my next scare, I knew what was to come, and because of that was underwhelmed by the experience. I didn't watch it again until about 5 years later. At that time I had recently graduated from film school, got married, and had moved 3000 miles across the country. This time although I was expecting it, Audition unsettled me. It had gotten me good. And I was quite happy about it, having grown up watching horror films by the proverbial truckload, it is hard to find a film that is truly scary and unsettling, and Audition is both of these things.
For this third viewing, I again expected to be assaulted by Miike's macabre masterpiece, and I knew that my reaction would either fall into the category of the first, or deeper into the second. My suspicion was that it would be the latter. This is blu-ray we are talking about here, some people may complain that in HD you see too much that it takes away some of the charm of these films. I see it differently, blu-ray makes horror more horrific. There is nothing left to the imagination, it is all there in your face in pure 1080p.
I guess I had better end this overlong tirade, and get to the meat and bones of Audition. For those who don't know, Audition is a film by the extremely prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike. The story is quite simple, A widowed film producer Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) 7 years following his wife's death is encouraged by his friend and teenaged son to finally remarry. Aoyama is nervous about getting back into the dating game, and concocts a plan to simply audition for a new bride. The two being film producers decide to set up auditions for a movie that isn't being made to give Aoyma the chance to find his perfect woman. During the auditions Aoyama becomes smitten with the mysterious Asami (Eihi Shiina), and the two begin to date. Revealing anymore about the plot would ruin the movie, but that in a nutshell is the basic premise.
Shout Factory! Have presented Audition in a 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer encoded in 1080p HD. The transfer for the most part is excellent, there is much more detail than the previous DVD release that I viewed (The American Cinematheque DVD), and the colors are brighter and more vibrant throughout. The transfer also boast a very good warm ambiance in specific scenes that I do not recall from my previous viewing. That being said, the transfer is not without its problems. There is quite a fair amount of grain throughout the film, and during the first half of the movie there are quite a few noticeable cigarette burns in the upper right hand corner of the screen. However, aside from those minor issues, this is definitely the best Audition has ever looked on Region 1/A Home video.
Audition is presented in DTS HD 5.0 Surround Sound, in Japanese with forced English subtitles. The track is loud and clear, without too much in the way of distortion and background noise. The subtitles are much cleaner than the prior release.
Shout Factory! Has loaded their release of Audition with an insane amount of extras. The first disc kicks off with a commentary by Audition director Takashi Miike, and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan. The track is in Japanese with forced English subtitles. The 2nd disc is packed with extensive interviews with the primary cast of the film. This disc also includes the trailers for the films. To round off the set is a booklet featuring an essay on the film written by Tom Mes (Author of Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike).
If you haven't seen Audition, this is the release to introduce yourself to it with. Shout Factory! Has done an amazing job in bringing Audition to HD, and while the transfer isn't perfect, this is the best Audition is liable to look for some time. For long time fans, this BR release will reveal details and emotions that you may not have noticed on prior viewings, and is worth picking up for that alone. However, for the new and the familiar the extras on this set, put it over the top. This BR is a must-buy!