Review: The Happiness of the Katakuris

Here’s more freaky shit from Japanese auteur Takashi Miike.

The Happiness of the Katakuris

Here’s more freaky shit from Japanese auteur Takashi Miike. In The Happiness of the Katakuris, Miike reimagines Ji Woon Kim’s The Quiet Family as a go-for-broke animation-comedy-fantasy-horror-musical spectacle. In a remote region of Japan, the Katakuris family opens a guesthouse and eagerly awaits their first patron. A sickly man rents a room for the night only to commit suicide by plunging a room key into his neck. Hoping to avoid a public relations disaster, the worried Masao (Kenji Sawada) suggests they bury the body in the backyard. With each new guest, there’s a new corpse to bury. Though a supposed road plan promises to bring commerce to the area, the Katakuris family must now unearth and rebury their dead. Curiously, Miike fares better with the film’s family drama than he does with its audacious set pieces. The family greets death with playful song-and-dance but the musical sequences grow noticeably more uninspired as the film moves on. Far better are the quiet, goofy transitional moments that follow each musical number. Masao’s nightmare-within-a-nightmare calls fabulous attention to the authenticity of the film’s many realities, not to mention the naïveté and boredom of its characters. The more complex special effects are tackled via a series of delirious Claymation sequences (one evokes a complex food chain, the other exaggerates the family’s will and might). Though uneven, this genre-defying creation’s spectacle is still never less than awesome to behold.

 Cast: Kiyoshiro Imawano, Keiko Matsuzaka, Naomi Nishida, Kenji Sawada, Shinji Takeda, Naoto Takenaka, Tetsuro Tamba  Director: Takashi Miike  Screenwriter: Kikumi Yamagishi  Distributor: Shochiku  Running Time: 113 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2002  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. A member of the New York Film Critics Circle, his writing has appeared in The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times, and other publications.

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