I'm prepared to belive that all Japanese films are a little crazy. I don't know enough about it to say otherwise. And if that's true, then maybe this one isn't quite as odd as it appears to my untutored eye. But I think, whatever the prevailing style of modern Japanese cinema, The Happiness of the Katakuris is most likely about as nuts anything you'll ever see.
But it is fantastic. Part animation, part musical, part horror, part comedy, and all of it played exquisitely by the actors. Their faces are calm, despite the increasingly ludicrous events that unfold around them, despite the mounting number of dead bodies. The actors, every one of them, are a charm.
It is also a wonderful celebration of family. In fact, the only thing that ties the film together is the way the eponymous relations stick by each other. Their story - that of opening a remote hotel and struggling to find guests, then having guests gradually arrive only to die one by one in bizarre circumstances - is filtered through the importance of family ties. It is a nice message, though one that could have become leaden with good intentions. But when told like this, no subject could ever be boring. You cannot help but laugh with delight watching this film. It is that much fun.
on 6 October 2003
From Japan's hottest director, Takashi Miike, comes a film that merges together a handful of incompatible genres and ends up creating a genre of its own. The plotline concerns a Japanese family who have shunned the pressures of city life to open a hotel by the mountainside. When the guests begin to come, they all die in unusual ways, leaving the family of having the option of bad publicity or a series of burials. Sounds like Shallow Grave? Well, this film is a MUSICAL! Where the chracters randomly burst into joyous song. An unpredictable film, it also has moments of Jan Svenmajer style animation. Bizarre, imaginative, beautifully directed and unlike ANYTHING you have ever seen!
on 2 August 2006
This film has singing, dancing, horror, romance AND comedy which makes it everything you could ever want on a saturday evening. Watch it with an open mind and you'll love every second.
The first time i watched this i was thinking 'hmmmm, strange' but then it started to really grow on me and now it's definately one of my top ten favourite films.
The first 10 minutes are insane and a bit gross, but after the start you really come to love the characters and the crazy plot the film Takashi Miike has to offer.
I totally LOVE all the songs, i find myself singing along even though they're in Japanese!! They are a bit cheesy, but you have to understand that they're supposed to be, and some of the songs are also really sweet!
The characters are all different and awesome and the storyline is totally insane, but, of course for comical effect. Don't watch this if your comfortable diet of film only consists of normal Mainstream Hollywood films, because you won't be comfortable with how cheesy the songs seem, or with how bold the narrative is. (it dosen't follow the normal beginning, middle and end pattern)
Unpredictable deaths, zombies and playful songs dott the entire story. Beneath all the funky dressing however there also lies a really very sweet message, and you come to understand that the strong underlying moral is of how important love and family is, and how with these things, one has the strength to overcome anything. And on watching this film you'll understand that the Katakuris definately need this family strength!!
on 31 March 2004
This is great fun. Mix up John Waters, Father Ted, Shallow Grave and the Royal Tennenbaums (oh - and morph from Vision On) and you get the idea. It is from the director of Audition, which is absolutely no use to you as a guide to this film. If you have a fine sense of the absurd, this will entertain you. There is a plot (sort of) but that isn't especially important. Any film that starts with "my uvula" as the opening line (that's the dangly bit in your throat) gets my vote. Just when you think it couldn't get any more ostentatiously ridiculous - it does.
If the tap-dancing in Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano) made you smile, you will like this too.
The extras are unusually good too as listed in the Amazon review.
Firstly, aword of warning for those in search of the grusomeness generally regarded as Mr Miike's forte. This is a very different kettle of fish.
Part musical, part romantic comedy and part 'a kind of film i've never come across before' with a small smattering of zombie fun, this is a movie that truly defies labels.
set, in some respects, in a small bed & breakfast in nowhere-land Japan & set, also, in a world outside of our own this is a fil in which nothing is what it seems and just when you thin it can't possibly get any stranger........!!!!!
It's also very funny. Gut burstingly so. Gore may be off the menu but blacker than black nastiness with a comic twang is very much in!
For those of you who like your moives to have a 'proper' beginning, middle & end, steer well clear, you will loathe every second of this. For those of you with a more, erm, warped or downright loopy view, this movie could just about make your day.
on 15 April 2016
This movie is advertised as a zombie movie. It isn't. The zombie scenes account for less than 5 minutes of the film and are 2 dream sequences. If I wasn't so disappointed at the blatant mis-selling of the movie, I might have enjoyed it.
on 24 April 2016
I am pretty sure I've never tripped on acid but after watching this I'm not so sure. Not sure what to say. Monty Python with a bit of Michael Bentine thrown in.
Takashi Miike is well known for his controversial output, directing as many films in a year as some directors manage over a career he has become synonymous with extreme violence in Japanese cinema. Although Happiness Of The Katakuris contains a bit of blood, those who felt queasy watching Ichi The Killer can relax as the tone of this film is completely different, chills are swapped for comedy in this genre defying film which has to be seen to be believed.
The film starts with a scene set in a restaurant which leads into a stop motion animation sequence, it's odd but brilliantly so! It's a fascinating and well animated piece which, after a few minutes, blends back into live action. It's an striking change of medium which prepares you for the chaotic mash of styles which follow.
The Katakuris live in a struggling guest house, tourism in the area hasn't quite taken off in the way they anticipated and so they are delighted when they finally receive a guest. But in a scenario befitting of Fawlty Towers, he is found dead in his room the next morning. It's not the sort of thing a guest house wants to be associated with and so his body is buried. Unfortunately guests have a habit of leaving the Katakuri's guest house less alive than when they went in and so the well meaning owners find themselves with a garden full of corpses, but they don't remain underground for long.
This is a musical, comedy horror where the happy-clappy song and dance routines are juxtaposed with the more tragic human drama aspects of the film. To be fair the drama is a bit thin in this film and the overly camp musical numbers are obviously over-the-top for comedy effect. At first it all seems a bit too strange but you relax into it and find yourself enjoying this bizarre blend of expression.
The tagline "the hills are alive with sound of screaming" is perhaps a little misleading as it suggests a bigger focus on horror than the film actually delivers, however it does compliment the Sound Of Music parody on the cover. As a comedy horror it doesn't quite work, as a musical it doesn't work either as only some of the songs are catchy and a lot of the singing is poor, but the overall film works as a bonkers piece of unique entertainment.
As for the DVD transfer, there's no consistency. Some scenes are plagued with obvious compression artefacts and digital noise, some scenes (dimly lit ones) have bad motion smearing, and yet some scenes look superb - popping with detail and vivid colours! I suspect that various types of film have been used to capture the moving images and that doesn't help, the stop-motion is obviously filmed differently and those moments are clearly the best in terms of image quality. There are several bonus features on this release including a 'making of' documentary and a feature called 'animating the Karakuris'. As a big fan of animation I found this a worthy watch even though it's only short and doesn't go into any real detail, there' no narration - you just watch the animators fiddling with the models, with dodgy music in the background.
In a nutshell: Sometimes this looks quite shoddy, and sometimes you feel as though you're watching a work of creative genius. Psychedelic, surreal madness, and when you think it can't get more bizarre the ending is truly, well, bonkers.
A woman is eating soup when she finds a strange object in her soup -- a curly-headed pixie who becomes enamored of her uvula and steals it. Thus begins a weird claymation sequence involving ghastly rag dolls, snakes, killer crows, and more pixies.
This one scene alone tells you just what kind of movie "The Happiness of the Katakuris" is, and whether you're going to like it. Takashi Miike -- well known for gruesome action movies -- is pretty obviously having a ball as he tells the colorful, chaotic story of a singing family and the people who have the misfortune to visit their hotel. Zombies, random musical numbers, and family strife are all here in abundance.
The Katakuri family is made up of four generations of family, criminal activity, and general hopelessness -- the only one currently immune is the little granddaughter.
And things are not improved when the head of the family Masao (Kenji Sawada) is laid off from his job. So he purchases a remote hotel, after being told that a major road is going to be run nearby. But nobody checks in until one rainy night, when a strange man appears -- and then stabs himself on a sharpened keychain. Cue the Japanese techno and dance number!
Terrified that the suicide will ruin their reputation, the Katakuris surreptitiously bury the man in the woods -- only to have more guests die in bizarre ways, and end up buried in the woods. Oh yeah, and Shizue's (Naomi Nishida) new boyfriend is a criminal. As a typhoon approaches and their secret burials are threatened with discovery, can this family of failures pull it together -- or will everything blow up in their faces?
I have to say that Takashi Miike -- famous for the graphic and horrific "Ichi the Killer" -- is not the first person I'd have chosen for a black-comedy/musical about a family running an ill-fated hotel. Especially since I have a special fondness for the Korean movie it remakes, "The Quiet Family." But Miike's work on this is nothing short of brilliant -- a comedy of increasingly grotesque errors, leading up to a literally explosive finale.
A lot of its charm is that Miike does not let his style be constrained by logic -- there are wild random musical numbers, claymation interludes, disco balls, wacky spiritualists, and a flying conman who claims to be the Queen's secret nephew ("Diana! If only I was there!"). He shows no restraint at all, even climaxing the film in a crazy scene where the fear-addled Katakuris -- who are trying to re-bury those troublesome corpses -- do a carefree song-and-dance scene with a bunch of zombies. It has to be seen to be believed.
And it's really funny too. While the plot starts at a rather relaxed pace (excluding the uvula-stealing pixies), Miike cranks up the absurdity with plenty of lowbrow humor (a sumo wrestler dies during sex, and crushes his girlfriend), gore, and a general feeling of surreality. Things just get more hysterical and desperate for the poor Katakuris, and Miike never gives them a break ("Maybe we should prepare for the worst," one of them says when a guest solemnly requests some cord).
Surprisingly for a black comedy, the characters are rather likable, if pathetic -- the dad and mom are just trying to keep the hotel afloat while proclaiming love to each other. Tetsuro Tamba's lovable old grandpa is just trying to keep his family safe when he isn't killing crows and assaulting suitors. Nishida is also quite good as an eternally desperate divorcee, who is almost superhumanly gullible when it comes to men.
"The Happiness of the Katakuris" is a perfect example of a black comedy -- warped, wild, wacky, and full of clay pixies and singing zombies. Now if only somebody could get Peter Jackson to remake this puppy...
on 22 October 2007
The Happiness of the Katakuris is probably Takashi Miike's strangest film (or at least, stranger than any of the others that I've seen so far; which is quite an accomplishment when you consider that some of those films include the equally bizarre delights of Gozu, Dead or Alive, Ichi the Killer and Visitor Q). Where The Happiness of the Katakuris exceeds the strangeness of those particular films is in the not so subtle blending of genres, styles and influences; making reference to and pastiche of everything from Japanese television and post-war family melodrama, to Hollywood musicals and zombie exploitation.
The overall result is like a kind of giddy burst of merry, kaleidoscopic excess; as sounds, sights, colours and textures all blend amidst the barrage of stop-motion horror, live action character development and scenes of Technicolor, all-singing/all-dancing delirium! The basic plot was loosely inspired by an earlier Korean film called The Quiet Family - the first film from Kim-Ji Woon, director of A Tale of Two Sisters and A Bittersweet Life - which was more of a straight horror/comedy story about a typical nuclear family that set up a hunting lodge in the countryside, only to find that their first wave of clients are dying off one by one in mysterious circumstances. Miike transports the action to rural Japan and spins a yarn of staggering imagination; adding broader strokes of slap-stick humour, campy musical numbers and a colourful zombie pastiche.
Still, don't come to this expecting a horror film or something that continues the brutality of Ichi the Killer or Agitator (two other films that Miike directed alongside this in 2001); The Happiness of the Katakuris is a comedy at its most satirical and absurd; using the frame-work of the story to look at the backgrounds of three generations of Japanese men and the women that support them, and tying it all into a subtle reference about Japanese culture, from the post war to the present. And even if you chose to ignore the more satirical angle presented in both the humour and the narrative design there's still so much left to enjoy; with the constant barrage of sight gags and colourful musical numbers erupting from the seemingly calm veneer of a "normal" family life.
For me, Miike is a genius filmmaker, and The Happiness of the Katakuris is easily one of his must-see works! From the Buñuel-ian tinged opening that descends into a sequence of stop-motion animation that introduces us to both the themes and story of the film we're about to see, to the grand finalé which moves spasmodically from musical, to farce, to high tension; before eventually ending on a dual moment of tragedy and jubilation. The performances throughout are superb, with each member of the family feeling like a proper three-dimensional character that we can really relate to and believe in. It's also worth pointing out that for a director with a reputation as brutal and offensive as Miike's this is the second film he made in the year 2001 alone in which the ultimate point of the film was the importance of family and tradition (the other being the similarly brilliant and outlandish satire, Visitor Q).
The Happiness of the Katakuris is masterpiece film for me; inventive, irreverent but also filled with empathy and compassion. I'd place it on the list of essential films by Takashi Miike, with some of the others being the well-known likes of Audition, Gozu and Visitor Q, but also more understated works like The Bird People in China, The Great Yokai War and Shinjuku Triad Society. A must have for anyone with an interest in original, intelligent and highly imaginative filmmaking!