Audition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (14th April 2024).
The Film

"Audition" 「オーディション」 (1999)

It has been seven years since Shigeharu Aoyama (played by Ryo Ishibashi) lost his wife to cancer and became a single parent to young son Shigehiko (played by Tetsu Sawaki). Working at a production company, his producer coworker Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (played by Jun Kunimura) suggests holding a mock casting session in order to find a possible suitor for Aoyama. Looking through numerous applications and feeling underwhelmed, he comes across one by a young woman named Asami Yamazaki (played by Eihi Shiina) whose essay and background in music and ballet captures his attention. The two share some time together through dinner dates and become acquainted with each other, though Yoshikawa warns Aoyama that there are some discrepancies and issues with the information she gave at the audition, including one of her supposed contacts who happens to be classified as a missing person. Aoyama ignores the flags, but there is something more horrific that Asami is hiding, and Aoyama may be the next victim...

Production company Omega Project had a massive word of mouth hit with its 1998 film "Ring" becoming a national sensation in Japan, and later the rest of the world. To capitalize on their horror hit, it licensed author Ryu Murakami's 1997 story "Audition" for a screen adaptation. They enlisted director Takashi Miike as the film's director, who had experience under the mentorship of the legendary filmmaker Shohei Imamura and made his name as a V-Cinema and indie film director in his own right with a number of yakuza themed works since 1990. For the adaptation to screen, Miike worked with Daisuke Tengan, the son of Imamura and an award winning screenwriter for the screenplay for his father's Palme d'or winning drama "The Eel" in 1997. Neither Miike or Tengan had experience with anything horror related, and it would be new territory for the both of them.

For the first half of "Audition" it plays out as a fairly standard romantic drama. A widower coping with the death of his loved one. His chance to find happiness once again with a beautiful young woman. His teenage son and his best friend supporting his new encounter. Miike's direction and Tengan's script plays things simple and straightforward. Events happen in chronological order, the mental stress of Aoyama over the years and his initial awkwardness in the idea of setting up a fake audition by his coworker is wonderfully played by Ishibashi in the lead role. When Asami is introduced, it is the first time his face lights up with a smile as he sees something special within her purity and charm. Shiina plays the character well with her quaint and polite behavior, and when the two are dining together and becoming friendlier to one another in a non-professional sense, there seems to be a genuine connection. But near the halfway point when the audience sees Asami in her apartment for the first time, there is a major shift in tone. The old apartment is creepy in its near emptiness with a phone on the floor and having almost no furnishings, though there is a giant white tied up sack in the middle of the room. Having the story being told through Aoyama's point of view for the entire time and based in his reality, the sequence of her creepy apartment seems like it is his imagination playing tricks on him. He has heard from Yoshikawa about the facts not adding up with her resume and that the record company producer that she gave as a reference went missing months ago. Is it all within his head?

In 1992, Murakami adapted his 1988 story "Topaz" as a feature film, with Murakami also directing. The story, dealing with sadomasochism needed quite a daring actress to play the lead role, and Murakami himself was part of the casting process in seeing a number of women. The role went to actress Miho Nikaido, which the film in western markets was titled "Tokyo Decadence". But there was one woman who did not get the role in which Murakami developed a personal relationship with. Murakami never disclosed the identity of the woman, though after their split he took inspiration to writing a horror story based on the relationship and dialing the excessive nature to the extreme. The casting process, the relationship that developed are based on some reality, though the darker twists that grow in "Audition" were from his imagination and nightmares.

With "Audition" there are some hints in making it seem like the events of the second half of the film are examples of a mental breakdown and Aoyama having nightmarish visions. Like any person experiencing the trauma of losing a loved one and never overcoming it, he constantly questions about what he is doing and there are examples of flashes back and forth and even showcasing alternate situations of already shown sequences. It certainly messes with the minds of the audiences, though the further characters that are exposed are even more disturbing. There is the female owner of the bar that Asami said she worked at who was found murdered, and strangely had extra body parts found at the crime scene. Shimada (played by Renji Ishibashi) is a wheelchair bound elderly man with prosthetic feet, and was Asami's ballet teacher as a child. There is also Shibata (played by Ren Osugi) who used to work for Ace Records and was said to be a contact for Asami is a man that is further disfigured, missing his feet, three fingers, an ear and his tongue.

"Audition" has been labeled as a misogynistic film as well as a feminist film, and it depends on the viewpoint taken. Seeing things through the eyes of Aoyama, it shows the sexist Japanese social norms with the audition process prying into the casting questions that are sexually uncomfortable and the women treated in an assembly line fashion. There are a few women in the auditions that are willing to strip naked for the Aoyama and Yoshikawa as well as the cameras recording them. The idea of a man in his forties to have a sexual relationship with a woman in her twenties, using his social status and workplace for personal use like this is a bit on the creepy side, though if the genders were reversed it would cause a much bigger uproar. To be fair, Aoyama is not particularly the bad guy. It is not his idea to hold the fake auditions and finding a suitable mate and he is conflicted with the idea. In comparison, Yoshikawa is the sleazy man and yet it is Aoyama that is trapped in the downward situation of falling in love with a person with a disturbing past. Through the eyes of Asami on the other hand, she experienced physical, mental, and sexual abuse from childhood and it has shaped her into woman that is pure at heart but filled with vengeance against people who try to take advantage of her. Is "Audition" about the ultimate trauma come to life? Falling in love with the ultimate psychotic person who is ready for physical mutilation and torture? Or about untreated childhood trauma that leads to unspeakably horrific forms of vengeance? The final extremely brutal and graphic sequence in "Audition" is always the most talked about scene, and though it does have its share of gore, it is steeped in realism in comparison to blood soaked nastiness seen in a number of horror features. It is slow and deliberate, calculated and disturbing, yet it is well done to the point of not being extremely graphic in what is shown on screen, with a lot left to the imagination through its editing and its sound effects.

With Omega Project having international success with "Ring", it decided to submit "Audition" to international festivals before opening in Japan, and it first screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival on October 2nd 1999, followed by the Rotterdam International Film Festival on January 28th 2000. It was famously said that during the Q&A with Miike after the Rotterdam screening, a female audience member yelled at Miike for directing such a sick film. The film opened in Japan theatrically on March 3rd 2000, though it didn't have quite the same impact that "Ring" had for Omega Project. On the other hand, further international festival appearances and sales to foreign territories along with "Ring" caused a sensation with the so called new wave of J-Horror. With the DVD market becoming a major force for distribution, other works by Miike as well as other Japanese horror features were quickly snatched up for international sales. Although Miike was new to the horror scene at the time and subsequently he has only had a handful of films that were truly horror, many would view him as the most extreme of horror directors due to his works having creative extreme content. Though he has made hundreds of works in his lengthy and busy career with family films, action films, and more, he has stated that it was due to the unexpected success of "Audition" internationally that brought greater attention to his works as well as for Japanese filmmaking in the 2000s, which the entire industry can be thankful for. He has never claimed to be an auteur and is just a busy filmmaker that doesn't put a lot of personal creativity within each work. He might get a lot of the credit, but the reason "Audition" continues to shock audiences worldwide is a combination of everything from the writing, the performances, the visuals, and even the sound. The story can be interpreted in differing ways, though it is certain that it will leave a scarring mark for those who view it.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The transfer comes from an older HD master (and not a 2K restoration master as described in their booklet - see notes below in the packaging section). Shot on 35mm film, the HD transfer is free of major issues such as damage marks for a clean image throughout, though it does have a few issues. Film grain structure is visible, though it has a bit of a digital smoothening look which stabilizes color and detail, but also flattens the image a bit. Colors on the other hand may be stable, but they are slightly on the darker side with the palete. The 1.78:1 ratio actually crops the image from the sides of the original theatrical framing which was in 1.85:1. There was a newer 2K restoration done in 2016 by Arrow Films, and it is unfortunate that Umbrella was not able to license that transfer (which was licensed to France's The Jokers and Germany's Capelight for their Blu-ray releases). Umbrella's might be using an HD transfer made 15 years ago and it is still in a watchable state. But for fans looking for the better picture quality, it is found elsewhere.

The film's runtime is 115:27.


Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo

The film was originally mixed with a theatrical DTS stereo track, and for its home video releases from DVD onward it was given a 5.1 mix. This release features lossless tracks in both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo. The 5.1 track does a great job, with dialogue placed in the center for the most part while the surrounding channels used for music and effects. From the snarling bag and the other gruesome sound effects they are well balanced, as well as the eerie score from composer Koji Endo. The oddly upbeat anime-style ending theme "Scarlet" performed by Elie Park (more widely known as Park Ji-yoon) is also mixed well with stereo separation. As a Japanese-Korean production, this was the singer's first and so far only Japanese language (with some English lyrics) song, and as far as I know, the song and the soundtrack album have never been released on a physical format. Park has had a lengthy career in the South Korean pop music scene, but she never broke into the Japanese market. As for the 2.0 audio track it is a downmix of the 5.1 and sounds fine as well, but people with a full surround setup should opt for the 5.1 track.

There are optional English subtitles available for the feature in a white font. They are well timed and easy to read without errors.


(1) Audio Commentary by Japanese Film Expert Tom Mes (2016)
Mes has written books on Miike and cult Japanese works over the years and provides a great commentary on the film here. He discusses about the significance of the film being an early Japanese-Korean co-production, Miike's career at the time, behind the scenes information, differences between the original story and the film version, other works by Murakami, about the actors, the film's reception and legacy and much more. This was originally recorded for the Arrow Video Blu-ray and DVD release.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

(2) Audio Commentary by director Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan, hosted by Masato Kobayashi (2009)
This commentary has Miike and Tengan reunited ten years later, looking back at the making of the film. Discussed are Omega approaching them for the project, Miike and Tengan not having experience in the horror genre at the time, Murakami's positive reaction to the adaptation, the reactions to the film internationally, behind the scenes information and about the cast and crew, and more. In addition there are discussions on some of Miike's other works including the controversial "Imprint" and the screening of "Ichi the Killer" at the Toronto International Film Festival being almost cancelled due to it being scheduled soon after 9-11, and the creative freedom differences between Japanese and Hollywood productions. This was originally recorded for the US Shout! Factory Blu-ray and DVD release.
in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles

(3) Audio Commentary by filmmakers Aaron McCann & Dominic Pearce (2024)
This new and exclusive commentary by McCann and Pearce has the two talking about their introduction to Miike's works more than twenty years ago and the shock values they had, the different reaction to seeing "Audition" again in a post #MeToo environment, differences between the novel and the adaptation, about the use of lighting, visual motifs, cinematography, and much more. The two have done their homework as they have information on the making of the film, and they are able to throw in some fun personal information as well here for an enjoyable commentary.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Deeper Deeper Into Audition" 2024 Video Essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (11:18)
This new and exclusive featurette has Heller-Nicholas (author of "Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study") looks at the film's themes such as the character of Aoyama's drinking habits, the male gaze in the fake audition process, the differing viewpoints and reactions, the generational change, and more. Although it is labeled a “video essay” it is an audio essay, as it plays with just a static image on screen the entire time.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

2009 Interview with actor Ryo Ishibashi (16:15)
This interview which was made for the 10th anniversary DVD and Blu-ray release by Shout! Factory in the US, has Ishibashi discussing his early years as a musician and then moving into the acting world, becoming typecast over the years, his reaction to the script of "Audition", recalling about the other cast members, the film's reaction overseas, shooting the final scene, and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1 / 1.85:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles

2009 Interview with actress Eihi Shiina (20:10)
This interview, also for the 10th anniversary release has Shiina discussing her early career in modeling, watching Japanese movies as a child, working with Miike and being cast in "Audition", her interpretation of the role, the reception from overseas and being recognized more from foreign fans than domestic fans and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1 / 1.85:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles

2009 Interview with actor Renji Ishibashi (20:56)
Another interview for the 10th anniversary, this has Ishibashi (no relation to Ryo Ishibashi) discussing about wanting to work with Miike after seeing some of his earlier works, about Miike's methods as a director, how his severed head prop from the film was reused multiple times in other films, his extensive filmography having everything from major roles to cameo appearances, as well as his work at Nikkatsu Studios in the 1980s.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1 / 1.85:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles

2009 Interview with actor Ren Osugi (16:26)
One more interview for the 10th anniversary has Osugi discussing his early acting career on stage and at Nikkatsu in the 1980s, working with Miike, his method on creating the movements and sounds for the character in the bag, his other roles for Miike, and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1 / 1.85:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles

Japanese Trailer (1:39)
The original trailer with dialogue is presented here.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles

International Trailer (1:16)
The original international trailer is presented without dialogue or narration. The trailer has been embedded below, courtesy of Arrow Video.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with English text

The film was first released on the Blu-ray format in the US in 2009 by Shout! Factory which had the director/writer commentary, four actor interviews, the Japanese trailer, as well as an introduction by Miike. Unfortunately, this release had forced subtitles. It was then released on Blu-ray in Germany by Rapid Eye Movies in 2014 which included a lengthy 48 minute interview with Miike as an extra. In 2016, Arrow Video released their Blu-ray which included the commentary, introduction and four actor interviews from the Shout! Factory Blu-ray and added the Tom Mes commentary, an interview with film historian Tony Rayns and a 30 minute interview with Miike. After Shout! Factory lost the distribution rights in United States, Arrow brought their edition to the US in 2019. It was also released on Blu-ray in Japan in 2020, but the sole extra was the trailer for the film. It should be noted that there are some extras on various DVD editions that have not been ported to any Blu-ray release. It's hard to choose one edition as "definitive" as each have their own exclusives, though the Umbrella release is a great one in the extras department.

Other notable clips:

Mark Kermode introduces the film for the BFI Player, with a hilarious anecdote of him lending the DVD to filmmaker Ken Russell

A clip of Asami's audition scene, courtesy of Arrow Video

An excerpt of Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, with "Audition" at #11


The disc is packaged in a keep case with the iconic spoiler still of Asami with the needle from the finale. There are some typos on the inlay though, with actor Jun Kunimura's name misspelled as Jun Kumimurato on both the front and the back, and Takashi Miike's name written as Miike Takashi on the front. While Japanese names in Japan are stated as family name first, given name second, this would be correct in terms of Japanese structure. Though all the other names written on the inlay are using the western style of given name first, family name second, so it is inconsistent. In addition, the back has his name written as Takashi Miike. (Though to be fair, the original poster artwork had "by Miike Takashi" printed on it.) The back also mistakenly states that it only includes a 2.0 audio track while the disc contains both 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks. The inlay is reversible, with the opposite side having identical artwork sans the Australian R18+ logo being removed. There is also a limited slipcase with new artwork by artist Sakura Kate available exclusively at the Umbrella Web Shop.

There is also a Collector's Edition available exclusively at the Umbrella Web Shop which includes the above slipcase, a rigid slipbox, a 48 page bound book, 8 replica lobby cards, and an A3 reversible poster, limited to 400 copies.

The book starts with a short synopsis of the film, followed by information on the film's restoration (though both have some issues, noted below). Next there is "The Novel Approach" by an unnamed writer which has information on the original novel. Next is Tom Mes' essay "Three Feet of Piano Wire", which is an excerpt from his 2013 book "Re-Agitator: A Decade of Writing on Takashi Miike" that focuses on "Audition". Then there is "Oh, Miike You're So Fine! The Delirious Cinema of Takashi Miike" by David Michael Brown on the director's varied and lengthy filmography. Next there is a section on the newly created artwork by Sakura Kate for this Umbrella release, with notes by Kate, conceptual artwork and the final designs. Finally there is a section of theatrical poster art.

The double sided poster has on one side the still from the keep case inlay (with names including Takashi Miike's in the uniform western format) and the opposite side having the Japanese poster art. The Japanese poster is slightly blurry.

The poster is housed in the keep case. The keep case with the slipcase, the artcards, and the book are housed in the rigid slipbox. Note the card on the back of the slipbox correctly states there are 5.1 and 2.0 audio available, though it mistakenly states the disc is region B only while it is region free. (The keep case inlay does state region ABC on the back.)

An unboxing of the Collector's Edition has been embedded below, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.

There are some errors within the booklet, first in the synopsis. Ryo Ishibashi's name is incorrectly spelled as Isibashi Ryo (again with the name presented in the Japanese form of family name first, given name second), stating that the character of Aoyama setting up the audition process (it was Yoshikawa) and referring to Asami's character as her family name Yamazaki. While technically correct, it would have been a better choice to either state her full name or her first name instead as she is frequently referred to by her first name for most of the film. Next there is a discrepancy with the restoration notes. It states that "Audition has been exclusively restored in 2K resolution" which is slightly misleading as it seems like this is a new restoration by Umbrella. But the rest of the text about the 2K restoration process is a cut-and-paste of the UK Arrow booklet's restoration notes. The only difference is that in the Arrow booklet, it starts with "Audition has been exclusively restored in 2K resolution for this release by Arrow Films." In addition to that, Umbrella's transfer is different from Arrow's 2K restoration. Comparing Umbrella and Arrow's transfer side by side, the framing is completely different with the Arrow being in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and showing more information on both sides of the frame, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right. Take for example the scene of Asami's audition where her back is toward the camera. On Arrow's transfer the camera operator of the audition is seen on the left side of the screen while on the Umbrella transfer he is not in the shot until the camera tracks in. In addition the Arrow transfer has a slightly brighter color timing, better grain structure with less digital artifacts, and properly framed in the theatrical aspect ratio. It is odd that Umbrella printed notes about a 2K restoration they did not utilize for their disc, instead being an older HD master from 15 years ago.


"Audition" is a shocking and controversial work that was a gateway film into J-Horror and Takashi Miike's works, and the disturbing nature of the content continues more than twenty years later. Umbrella Entertainment's Blu-ray release has its pluses and minuses, as the transfer utilized is a dated one and there are a number of mistakes with the packaging itself, though the extras included are of a good selection with a few exclusives.

The Film: A Video: B Audio: A Extras: A- Overall: B+


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