Ryo Ishibashi's Shigeharu seems a sympathetic enough man, a lonely widower, when we initially meet him in Takashi Miike's horror classic Audition, largely the film that broke Miike to the masses and one of the films most frequently mentioned when one brings up the subject of Asian horror.
Of course, women will likely recognize the truth early on.
There is another truth.
Shigeharu, sympathetic as he may be, is old school. He's a middle-aged film producer who unquestionably objectifies the women that he meets as he's likely done for years. When he sets up a faux film with the actual intention of auditioning for a wife, the set-up feels a little bit awkward but not exactly horrifying.
Of course, it becomes quite a bit more in Audition when Shigeharu stumbles across the rather timid, demure Asami (Eihi Shiina), whose downcast eyes and virginal white appearance is immediately enticing to the otherwise dismissive Shigeharu.
If you've never watched a Miike film, you should be prepared for the absolutely relentless way in which Miike directs his films. While most American horror filmmakers will take you to the edge before pulling back, Miike takes you to the edge, dances on it, pushes the edge a little farther down the road, then leaps over the edge anyway.
Audition is a dizzying, hallucinogenic and relentlessly brutal female revenge thriller in which Miike incorporates the freakishly macabre into everyday life with zest, enthusiasm, brutality and a sort of hellish glee that makes it both horrifying to watch and embarrassingly joyful. Shiina's performance here is magnificent, never breaking away into some horror caricature but always living deeply within the character of Asami, both authentically virginal in presentation yet giving into the darkness of her mission with passion and fury.
The film plays with relative normalcy for quite some time, its first big surprise leaping forward in such a way that you find yourself gasping as Miike then pushes the film forward into this horrific new realm. We begin to realize that Asami has assumed the role of dominant in this patriarchal society where such a thing is practically unheard of - it is brutal, perhaps even too brutal to be considered social justice, yet it somehow also feels a little right amidst all the wrongs.
Audition has been re-packaged by the fine folks at Arrow films with a wealth of extras accompanying the digital remastering. These extras include:
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
Brand new 2K restoration 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