22nd Jun2015

‘The Happiness of the Katakuris’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshirô Imawano, Tetsurô Tanba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki | Written by Ai Kennedy, Kikumi Yamagishi | Directed by Takashi Miike

the-happiness-of-the-katakuris

Being a Takashi Miike fan takes you down some strange roads.  Whether it is the extreme Ichi the Killer and Visitor Q, or the fun Crow Zero movies there is always something a little off about all of his movies.  One of the strangest to come from him has to be The Happiness of the Katakuris, a musical about happiness, family and death which is out now from Arrow Video…

When the Katakuri family build a bed and breakfast in the country, they do so on the promise of a new road being built close to it to provide them with plenty of customers.  When the road doesn’t appear though they start to wonder if they are cursed to fail.  When customers start to appear things at first appear to be picking up, until each of them dies a sudden and surreal death.  As the bodies start to pile up, the Katakuris start to wonder if they are doomed to be unhappy forever.

While Takashi Miike is good at the extreme, he also knows how to bring in a quirky style instead at times where humour is stronger than gore.  With The Happiness of the Katakuris it is easy to tell that this is not going to be your average movie, in fact has Miike every gone for average?  Moving from the real world to one of stop-motion animation, then adding musical numbers and adding a few zombies in for good measure you are in for a strange ride.  Even with the deaths the movie is so light-hearted that you can’t help but smile, because the atmosphere is that of comedy and happiness, not depression.  While my cynical mind can’t help but think the move to stop-motion animation is a way to save on the cost of the movie, it also adds a surreal element of fantasy to the film as well as letting Miike push the impossible into the film.  This along with the musical numbers all add together to make this one of the strangest of Miike’s movies, and if you’ve experienced his films then you know that this is quite a statement to make.

What makes The Happiness of the Katakuris so charming is the family themselves, especially the grandfather played by Tetsurô Tanba.  The most eccentric of the family his ability to throw logs at crows (and hit the target) is very admirable, though his jokes unfortunately aren’t as good.  The family as a whole though are a ragtag bunch that you can’t help but like, and you do hope that they get something positive out of all the chaos.  There are hints in the commentary with Takashi Miike to explain just why the film ends how it does, but I won’t spoil it here.  Just watch the movie then listen to his commentary to understand.  It adds a nice little point of view to what we see on the screen.

The presentation of The Happiness of the Katakuris is excellent, especially the picture and audio quality.  The special features not only feature two commentary tracks, one of them with Takashi Miike but also feature documentaries about the making of the film.  As quirky as the movie itself these documentaries and interviews show just how much fun the movie appears to have been to make, and it comes as no surprise really that the actors were as eccentric as the director behind the scenes.

The Happiness of the Katakuris reminds me just why I see Takashi Miike as one of my favourite directors.  With a brave directing style that is very in your face, he never selling out his art to become more commercial.  Whether extreme or quirky he always hits the right spot for me.  While I found it surprising that a Takashi Miike film was picked by Arrow Video to release I have to admit they have picked the perfect one to fit their cult style.  Now to see if they dare try for something a bit more extreme.  Maybe they can keep with the family theme with Visitor Q maybe?  Odder things have happened in the strange world of cult movies, I guess.

***** 5/5

The Happiness of the Katakuris is available on Dual Format DVD and Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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