'Audition' is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 with MPEG-4 1080p coding.
This really is a disappointing transfer, as the image is distinctly soft for the duration, even for Miike, who uses soft focus extensively. There was also a lot of print damage noted throughout. This damage ranges from large splotches of black “cigarette burns” to minute speckles. An inter-negative (due to rights over the negative) was used for this transfer and it really is in poor condition. Colouring is for the most part acceptable, with the largely (intentionally) muted palette displaying some well saturated primaries on occasion. The contrast ratio, like the colouration, is adequate but never mind-blowing. In saying that, there were some deep blacks noted but these were largely infrequent.
There were instances of edge enhancement noted but this effect is largely insignificant from the normal viewing position. The granular content is very high indeed (as is to be expected from a Miike movie) and is present to varying degrees duration. It is, however, less evident in some scenes when compared to others. DNR could have been applied to some of the scenes, attributing to the softness of the image and loss of detail in places but this is just speculation. I didn't really see any other evidence, aside from this softness, to suggest that DNR was utilised here. I also noticed some slight banding in some of the scenes but nothing to write home about.
Detail is evident but the presentation really lacks fine detail, even in close-ups. A couple of the scenes demonstrate depth but the print is rather flat and two dimensional for the majority. The lighting choices by Miike can also lead to some of the segments appearing overblown and washed out (in places) but this is intentional.
I believe that this is probably the best that this transfer will ever look, aside from a frame by frame remaster of the original print by a company such as Criterion. This release is most definitely not demo material and the softness of image, lack of stunning HD clarity and the off putting print damage, seriously damages this releases picture rating.
'Audition' comes with a 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio surround track.
Front separation is very good indeed, creating a nice wide soundstage for the duration. One nice example is when Shigeharu and Yasuhisa are playing golf on the rooftop, with helicopters and (rolling) golf balls moving from right to left field with ease. With regards to surround intervention, there's some nice enveloping activity in the opening scenes but this, unfortunately, does not carry through for the rest of the presentation. There are a few instances of surround activity at various junctures, such as the lowering of the blinds during the auditions or the sound of the sea crashing gently around listening position, but overall the surrounds were not nearly as active as I would have hoped for. The all important vocals, as this is largely a dialogue driven piece, are always crystal clear and never difficult to follow.
As is to be expected, with the absence of the “.1” element of the surround mix, bass interjection is non-existent. In fact, the only facet of the presentation which provided some worthy rumblage was during the closing credits! I hoped that the 5.1 mix, which was available on some DVD releases (such as the original uncut version), would have been included here but sadly this is not the case. The disquieting orchestral/string based score plays its part and has adequate surround bleed and bass tonality but never really comes to the forefront to impress. It certainly adds to the presentation as a whole and at times is difficult to listen to, mirroring the horrific acts occurring on screen.
I did notice a rather strange, gentle humming noise emanating from the surrounds for the vast majority of the run time. It sounds as though an air conditioning unit was placed in close proximity for the recording process. Upon inspection, it also transpired this effect was audible in the other channels as well. I'm not too sure what caused this interference but it is audible, and distracting, during some of the more subdued portions of the movie. The audio also dropped out completely 37 minutes into proceedings. I'm not too sure if this was a fault of my PC based setup but I thought that it deserved a mention.
This, in my opinion, is a very good stereo presentation, with a few ambient effects thrown in at various points for token effect. The quality of the source material just doesn't seem to be able to fill out the soundstage as well as other BD's out there and at times can sound a little forced and unnatural. Overall though, it does offer an upgrade from the previous DVD track but most certainly won't wow or impress at any stage.
This is the two disc collector's edition of 'Audition', with the extras scattered across both discs. An audio commentary with Miike, screenwriter Daisuke Tengan and film writer Masato Kobayashi, is included on the main BD (locked to region A). This brand new commentary track was recorded in 2008, presumably for this release. The commentary is very informative and the three discuss this movie as well as Miike's other releases. How 'Audition' made it to the silver screen, the actors/characters involved, the graphic content and the success of movie are all discussed in depth here. Miike also imparts some wisdom regarding his directorial techniques and adds some insight to the plot. The three seem to be good buddies and there's plenty of laughs and merriment throughout. The commentary is difficult to follow at times and requires concentration, as it's only accessible to non Japanese speakers through the included subtitles, but it's certainly a worthwhile exercise. A booklet with a short essay about the movie and a very brief introduction to the movie by Takashi Miike and Eihi Shiina are also included.
The second DVD disc (locked to region 1) houses the remainder of the additional supplements, which consist primarily of interviews with the cast.
“Interview with Ryo Ishibashi” (SD 16mins) - Ishibashi gives us a brief autobiography and expands on his acting career and his international success. He speaks about his long term working relationship with Miike and about the part his plays in this movie, as well as his opinion of the finished product.
“Interview with Eihi Shiina” (SD 20mins) - Shiina speaks about how she got into acting following a stint in modelling, how she prepared for this role and her thoughts on working with such a great and renowned director. She discusses her character and the motives behind Asami's madness. The locations for this shoot and her acting experience on 'Tokyo Police Gore' are also discussed here.
“Interview with Renji Ishibashi” (SD 20mins) - Renji elaborates on his previous acting experience, how he landed the role in this movie and his character (the old man in the wheelchair). He imparts some insight about Miike's methods and his experience of working with him; he also gives him due credit for his work and directorial techniques. Renji even kept his decapitated head from this movie and it now sits on his mantelpiece!
“Interview with Ren Osugi” (SD 16mins) - The man in the bag expands on why he chose a career in acting, his previous roles and how he landed the almost unaccredited part in this movie. Again, Miike's methods and the success of 'Audition' are also discussed.
Trailers (SD) - Included here are two trailers, one international and one Japanese, for your viewing pleasure.
'Audition' was released in 1999 and was helmed by one Japan's most notorious and celebrated directors, Takashi Miike. The movie tells the story of Shigeharu, a lonely widower who holds an audition to find the girl of his dreams. Attracting the attention of a beautiful ballerina, Asami, Shigeharu falls deeply in love. Of course, this being a Miike production, things are not what they seem on the surface and we're soon plunged into a terrifying world of depravity and despair. Miike's masterful framing techniques and multi-angled approach to capturing all of the on screen activity, in conjunction with the wonderful performances of the cast, has created a highly entertaining movie. The jarring plotline takes an abrupt u-turn midway through proceedings, to deliver some of the most horrific and disquieting imagery ever committed to celluloid. With audience members walking out of cinemas and reputed collapses due to the the shocking nature of the content, this movie certainly has generated a lot of excitement. Is it worth the hype? Yes it is and it's largely down to Miike luring the audience into a completely false sense of security and then smashing them in the face with a hammer! Ranked by Time as one of the top twenty five horror movies of all time, I tend to agree with this opinion.
Both the audio and video presentations are a bit of a letdown and really don't impress at any stage. They both offer a worthwhile upgrade from the DVD release but fall a long way short of the quality of other BD's which are currently available. The extras portion offers an insightful commentary and some interesting interviews. This release is a difficult one to call, due to the poor audio visual quality, but I would definitely recommend this release to anyone who has not seen this movie, as I believe that it's the best incarnation that we will see on BD for a while.
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