Trivia Miike Takashi is the veritable Godfather of Japanese weirdness. If you think this was bad, check out Gozu, the story of a japanese gangster with a large penis and his boss who turns into a woman, as they battle a mob boss who gets off on shoving golden ladels up his ass. No shit.
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The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
30th May 04
The plot (although it’s a bit wild) goes like this. Masao Katakuri is a depressed and repressed shoe sales man who gets made redundant and consequently gambles his whole family’s future on restoring and running an old country guest house, the ‘White Lover’s Inn’. Masao, along with wife Terue and father Jinpei, call up their troubled son Masayuki and recently divorced (and desperate for love) daughter Shizue to create this family dream. Unfortunately, geography rears it’s ugly head and with the absence of a major road, their guest house has no guests.
When the guests do arrive, they have an amusing habit of dying. This is obviously bad for business and so, with family honour in jeopardy they take quite quickly to hiding the bodies, usually accompanied by some big musical number. It's that kind of movie.
I’m not being funny, but The Happiness of the Katakuris is the cinematic equivalent of a slap across the face. Romance, adventure, horror, singing, flying weirdness, family drama, you name it this baby’s got it in spades. Only those crazy Japanese have got the guts to make a film like this and I applaud them for it. I was certainly not expecting this from Miike Takashi, famous for more disturbing films like Audition and Ichi the Killer (although, come to think of it, maybe those films are equally disturbing. I guess it’s all about point of view). Neither do I expect the current trend of the Hollywood movie making machine snapping up the rights and remaking these eastern offerings to continue here; I don’t think there’s much of a market stateside for a film that is essentially Faulty Towers mixed with The Sound of Music, with a bit of Dawn of the Dead thrown in for good measure.
Take the opening scene; the films begins with a seagull crapping on the Grandpa’s head, so the Grandpa retaliates by picking up a log and throwing it at the offending bird. The twist here though is that the log arcs through the air for what seems like ages before hitting the seagull square on and killing it outright. Grandpa cheers, the audience cheer and the family go into a full-scale song and dance number to set up the plot for the movie.
The plot, ah the plot. Well, it's totally wierd and often seems like just an excuse for something to do until the next big musical number comes along. These are the highlights of the film, and it’s these moments, and the bizarre but strangely seamless shifts between live action and claymation, which justify me saying that this is one of the most original films I have seen in years.
Ironically, despite buckets of originality, this film is a remake of a South Korean movie called Quiet Family, although that wasn’t a musical. Whatever, this film really bought the house down when i first saw it and I like it more on each viewing. I urge you to go all out to find this gem, although you can rent it now from most Blockbusters in the foreign film section, so maybe try that first. It's not going to be to everyones taste, but was to mine.
Versions For once the UK edition is the best version available anywhere in the world and comes with the following features.
"Making of" - documentary (30 min)
Interview with the director Takashi Miike (33 min)
Interviews with various cast members (24 min)
Liner notes by Jamie Russell
Cast & crew filmographies
Original theatrical trailer
"Takashi Miike trailer show" (6 trailers)
"Animating the Katakuris" -featurette (5 min)