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Please excuse me while I take my jaw off the floor... Whew! Okay, so Miike's movies are always full of genre-busting surprises, and I should have known what to expect with 'The Happiness Of The Katakuris', but NOTHING could have prepared me for what a nutty movie experience this is! A feel-good cheesy musical full of claymation and some singing and dancing zombies?!! I loved every minute of it! The actors playing the Katakuris were all good, but Kiyoshiro Imawano stole every scene he was in. He played "Richard Sagawa" the charming conman who romances Shizue. As soon as he broke into song I was laughing hysterically! If you are looking for something unusual then head straight for the Katakuris! I highly recommend this highly original and entertaining movie.
When you think about Japanese cinema, what comes to your mind? I'm sure
it's movies like Audition, Ichi the Killer, et cetera. Nine times out
of ten, you'd guess it's a horror movies, but nine times out of ten you
wouldn't guess a comedy. Even less, you'd say a musical. But if you
combine all three, you get The Happiness of the Katakuris, a crazy
hybrid (directed, ironically, by the guy who directed the
aforementioned Audition) of the three. Actually, four, since I just
remembered about the animation. This four-genre film is far from
perfect, but it's pretty damn good for the combination of the genres.
The Katakuri clan owns a guest house on Mt. Fuji, because they hear a road will be built leading up to the house, therefore, much business. However, the road hasn't been built yet, the Katakuris haven't had a single guest, and Shizue (Naomi Nishida) is recently divorced. Soon, however, she finds Richard Sagawa (Kiyoshiro Imawano), and they fall in love. But is everything what it seems? And once the first guest comes, he mysteriously dies (Murder? Suicide? the song-complete with smoke and blue lights-asks). Soon more guests come, they all die, and the Katakuris have to bond together to figure out a solution to this problem.
The movie starts off with a couple minutes of claymation that serves as an odd transition to the actual story. I guess it was a pretty low-budget movie, because for two other "action-packed" scenes, claymation is also used. It works well in the context of the story, but a little unexpected, too. It's not jarring or anything, and the clay characters look like the real ones (as much as possible), so that's good. Some of the humor comes from the obvious (when the father is swinging on a swing he claims to safe, it breaks), some from the absurd (a man singing in a music video in drag, obviously, that everyone thinks is a woman), and some comes from the quirkiness of the musical numbers, like that aforementioned one. There's also a delirious ballad, some slow songs, and some joyous ones. There's even a sing-along. There're some lulls in between songs, as expected in all musicals, but you'd be surprised how much reading subtitles doesn't distract you from the songs. It's just like reading subtitles throughout a film. It is a bit weird during the sing-along, though.
It's not really a "true" horror, although there's a few gruesome images, and the themes are quite dark. They're presented humorously, though, and that's all that counts. Taken apart, each lacks. The comedy's not hilarious, the horror's not scary, the animation's just random, and the musical numbers, except for a few, aren't really memorable. But I still think you should see it. I'll bet that you've never seen anything like it before, and you probably never will until Hollywood remakes it.
My rating: 7/10
Rated R for violent images and some sexual content.
There is little more to say about this film than to recommend it heartily to
anyone with a sense of humour. I mean a proper sense of humour. If you have
ever wet yourself sitting through Monty Python you are going to enjoy this.
This isn't Will and Grace.
Most of the songs are great, the song based around a dead man with scissors in his neck is brilliant. They are cheesy, OTT and have some of the best dance moves since Ricky Martin tried dismally to samba his way into the charts. I am still humming along to some of the tunes (from the Katakuris, not Ricky Martin. Although I wish he'd been a guest at the Katakuri's guest house.) My greatest problem with the film comes from its advertising. It is labelled as a "Cannibal Musical" in some press releases. Ignore this. There is no cannibalism in this film. Not even a suggestion of it. Nobody even says in close up; "Oh I am hungry" and then is juxtaposed with a shot of a dead body. The only feasible description of this film which mentions cannibalism is: "Is not about cannibalism, unless if by cannibalism you mean songs".
You are going to have a great time watching this film and if you are familiar with Miike I think it is safe to say that this film is more shocking that even Ichi the Killer. Why? Because at the end of it you feel all warm and fluffy inside and I dare say nobody expects this from Takashi Miike. I certainly didn't.
Masao Katakuri (Kenji Sawada) has moved his family--his wife, his
divorced daughter, her child, his formerly criminal son and his
father--to the country, near Mt. Fuji. He purchased a large old home
with the intention of converting it into a kind of bed & breakfast,
since the road running nearby is supposed to be expanded, which would
bring tourists. But the road hasn't been expanded yet and the Katakuris
subsequently have no guests. When one finally shows up, mysteriously,
he commits suicide during the night. They hide the body to avoid bad
publicity. But they seem to be in a patch of bad luck, and more things
begin to go wrong. Through it all, however, the family sticks together
and sings happy songs.
Oh how I wanted to give this film a 10! It has so many elements I love. It's an absurdist mix of horror, surrealism, a musical, claymation, a black comedy, and one of those progressively "going to hell in a handbasket" films ala After Hours (1985), Very Bad Things (1998) or My Boss' Daughter (2003). Unfortunately, Happiness of the Katakuris suffers a bit from being unfocused. All of the individual elements are superb, but director Takashi Miike simply abandons too many interesting threads and the film ends up feeling more like a loose collection of skits. If it were tied together better, this would easily be a 10.
Happiness of the Katakuris, which is a "mutated" remake Ji-woon Kim's Choyonghan kajok (The Quiet Family, 1998), begins with a restaurant scene that ends up being unrelated to the rest of the film. While a woman is eating, a strange creature appears in her soup. This initiates a long sequence of claymation. The creature is a small, skinny, albino, white-eyed "demon" who wakes up from being stabbed in the neck with a fork and proceeds to rip out his would-be-consumer's uvula, which he turns into a heart-shaped balloon. The claymation has a strong Tim Burton feel ala The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and provides a wonderfully surreal and somewhat gory version of a "circle of life", also known as a food chain. At this point I was completely loving the film.
Oddly, Miike drops this material and we go back to a standard live-action mode as we learn about the Katakuris, initially from narration by toddler Yurie (Tamaki Miyazaki). I kept thinking that the claymation demons would return somehow, but they're forgotten about, even if claymation eventually makes a return later in the film, with a style more reminiscent of Bruce Bickford, who did the claymation in Frank Zappa's Baby Snakes (1979).
Fortunately, the Katakuris are intriguing in their own right, and for a long time the film settles into more of a quirky art-house drama style, albeit with a darker edge due to the fate of the hotel's guests. During this period, a romance subplot enters as we meet Richado Sagawa (Kiyoshiro Imawano), who is courting Katakuri divorcée Shizue (Naomi Nishida).
There are a few interesting musical numbers, and the love song between Richado and Shizue has attractive, bright production design. Although some of the songs were a bit bland to me--I prefer the music of, say, Jisatsu saakuru (Suicide Club, 2002)--they are all intriguingly staged, ranging from spoofs of rock videos to The Sound of Music (1965). Miike keeps a wicked sense of humor going throughout the film--there is something funny about most of the characters, most of the ways the characters relate to each other, and most of the scenarios.
All of the technical elements in the film are superb. Miike treats us to a lot of interesting cinematography, the location/setting of the Katakuri home is wonderful, and the performances are good.
Later, Miike shoots for more of a madcap Monty Pythonesque style, complete with "zombies" nodding their heads and toe-tapping to a song (ala the Camelot dungeon prisoner in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975, or the group of people being crucified in Life of Brian, 1979). The latter reference is particularly apt, as the "message" of The Happiness of the Katakuris, insofar as there is one, ends up being remarkably similar to the message of the song "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" from Life of Brian. Namely, life is short and often brutal, so we should focus on enjoying ourselves and having a good time with others while we're here; and once we're gone, others should celebrate our life and the time we had on the Earth rather than mourning our passing--somewhat like the funerals in some Caribbean cultures, which involve joyous singing and dancing rather than dour moping and tears.
Those are messages that I couldn't agree with more. It's just too bad that Miike couldn't have made the film a bit tighter, but even as loose as it is, you can't afford to miss this one if you have a taste for anything more unusual/surreal.
A note to those who are familiar with other films directed by Miike.
Although some of his other films have been very violent and disturbing
(such as AUDITION), this film is completely unlike these films and is a
must-see. This is NOT a violent or overly bloody film despite there
being zombies mid-way through the movie!
I love foreign films, so I am VERY willing to watch a wide variety of strange and sometimes "artsy-fartsy" films. However, my wife and I have urged our friends to see this film and all agree that it is a real gem. It is important that you watch the movie with an open mind, as the first few minutes of the film are, believe it or not, done in claymation! Then, it fades to the present-day Japan and the totally bizarre adventures that occur to a genuinely nice Japanese family. Through no fault of their own, this family's bed and breakfast seems to attract patrons fated to die (in rather comical ways, at that). The family's response? Simple--break into SONG!!! The songs are meant to be very silly and overly dramatic and turn out to be GREAT FUN!! The best of these has got to be the song and dance number featuring this sweet family and zombies (dead hotel guests). I'm sure NONE of this sounds funny or charming, but it is without a doubt both of these things as well as, believe it or not, a family values-affirming film.
The bottom line is, if you are brave and want something that is TOTALLY unpredictable and engaging, watch this film ASAP! Also, if you like weird and surreal musicals, I also recommend the Dutch film, YES SISTER NO SISTER.
Version: Japanese audio, English subtitles (by SBS).
Oh my, I think I have a new favourite movie, and the only way I can describe this is as a death musical about happiness. Wow, 'Happiness of the Katakuris' is possibly the most incredibly awesome movie I've ever seen.
In an effort to keep the Katakuri family together and happy, Masao (Kenji Sawada) opens a guest house in a secluded mountain area. Unfortunately, the first guest lacks clothes and apparently a reason to live, and kills himself. In a panic, the family sings, dances, and buries the body in the forest. The next guests are a sumo wrestler and his underage girlfriend, who both cark it while getting - ahem - intimate. Such a rising body count will test the Katakuri family's unity and their ability to break into impromptu song and dance numbers.
I was under the impression that 'Happiness of the Katakuris' was a zombie musical (like 'Battlefield Baseball'). Zombies only appeared in one scene in 'Happiness of the Katakuris' and yet the lack of zombies didn't disappoint me at all. Miike proves just how versatile his insanity is by directing something insane, yet far away from his standard fare. We get dancing zombies in one scene, a very strange claymation scene that seems to exist for no real purpose, and cheesy musical numbers that are well over the top. This funny and happy Miike is so much cooler than the Miike obsessed with exploding brains and unsettling torture scenes.
Ever seen the Monty Python film 'The Life of Brian'? 'Happiness of the Katakuris' ends with the same message: "always look on the bright side of life". 'Happiness of the Katakuris' is very entertaining and funny, and a great film, although I doubt it would appeal to everyone. It is my new favourite movie. In fact, I think I'll go watch it again now... - 10/10
Okay, I don't have the best taste in movies, but when I read the synopsis, I have to admit, I was unhealthily curious. My boyfriend walked out from this movie, but I had to stay to finish it. What would happen to Shizue and the rest of the nutty Katakuris?! I've never seen such an odd film, and with my taste in movies that's saying a lot. Some of my favorites involve anything by Stephen Chow, Rocky Horror, Hedwig, and even blockbusters, like Batman Begins, Dark City, and HitchHiker's Guide. This movie was hilarious. I found it in the horror section of Blockbuster but it should have been placed in the comedy section. At the beginning I thought it was going to be awful but when great-grandpa hit the crow with a chunk of wood, I knew it was going to be awesome. The songs are cheesy and goodhearted and I bet the actors had a blast making this movie. 8 out of 10 from me because it was, straight face here, the Weirdest movie ever. :)
OKAY. First off, I have to thank my friend who got to the theater one
minute before the film started. Secondly, we thought we were going to see
"City of Lost Souls" and it turned out that they were showing this film. Oh
well, it's by Miike, it should be good.
Wow. I find it's best viewing japanese cinema with no knowledge of the film beforehand. I saw Audition tha way and am proud to say I am now 97% fully recovered (j.k.). While Miike's ability to grab your attention and slowly drag you into the film is still present, the musical numbers probably had me (and others) laughing in the crowd. The Katakuris are a bunch of characters, let me tell ya. Miike's dark side is there, but in a twisted, strange, more subtle way. Watch the expressions, faces, and exaggerated acting in this film which are definitely major highlights. Some of my faves were the navy guy, the guests of the house, the grandpa, but overall, the family are hilarious when all onscreen.
It's definitely has its moments of light-heartedness, laughs, and 'interesting' claymation. Very entertaining and fun. A lot of people (including myself) were cracking up in disbelief and bewilderment. Definitely see it!
Miike Takashi's `Katakuri-ke no Koufuku' is a wonderfully bizarre black
comedy musical highly reminiscent of the music videos and live concert
performances staged by the now-defunct 80s & 90's J-pop powerhouse Kome Kome
Club. Miike's choice of Sawada Kenji as Katakuri Masao further accentuates
this similarity, since he strongly resembles K2C co-front man `Carl Smoky'
Ishii Tatsuya. The somewhat unpolished song & dance routines (unlike K2C),
along with episodic fits of overacting and self-depreciating man-on-a-wire
work combine to create a totally off the wall mix of dark humour and Miike's
trademark visual gross-outs.
In synopsis, Katakuri Masao is a downsized urbanite who stakes his family's livelihood on restoring a run-down country inn. Masao, along with wife Terue (Matsuzaka Keiko) and father Jinpei (Tamba Tetsuro) reel in their troubled son Masayuki (Takeda Shinji) and divorced daughter Shizue (Nishida Naomi) to create their family dream. But alas, location is everything, and without a major road nearby, the `White Lover's Inn' waits patiently sans customers. When guests finally do begin to arrive, the Katakuris find (through no fault of their own) that their guests have an annoying habit of dying. Not to be discouraged however, the Katakuris do their best to persevere as a family, and find time for a number of offbeat musical numbers in between.
The most irritating character was the second-rate con man Richard Sawada played by actor/singer Iwamano Kiyoshiro, who also played a deadbeat suitor in the TBS dorama, "Boku no Shusshoku". He actually does a fair job at speaking bad gaijin-sounding Japanese, and he's one of the only actors in the movie (to my knowledge) with a musical background. Oh, and the shot with him wearing the Oakley `OverTheTops' is pretty funny. One of the strangest elements to me (besides the opening claymation sequence) was the fact that the prologue & epilogue narratives were voiced in retrospect by the young grand daughter, for no apparent reason. Some reviewers point out the moralistic undertones of family values and such, but I suspect that even this was thrown in by Miike as part of a cold-cocked slap in the face with regards to anything being morally relevant in the film, or making sense for that matter.
Gangster films, horror, surrealism, children's movies, science fiction,
artsy dramas... Miike has some serious range & work ethic, that's the
big meme about him outside his perceived ick/wtf factor. Exploration is
healthy, but specialization is what leads to growth and quality--sadly,
the director is not in his element with Happiness. If I wasn't already
aware Miike directed it, I wouldn't have guessed it. His highly
natural, meditative eye, his guerrilla-like rejection of big budget
gloss, his ability to conjure up that much-sought after druggy,
hallucinogenic vibe without feeling forced; nearly everything that
marks him as an interesting, essential director is absent in this big,
loud dumb musical. Its genre alone seems to be the main appeal for this
new breed of lifestyle ironist outsider wannabes--"it's a MUSICAL with
ZOMBIES and BLOOD and stuff! Isn't that WEIRD?!"--but Miike plays it so
uncharacteristically straight and prosaically that there's very little
to talk about besides a little black humor and claymation.
Thematically it's just Ozu for generation Y, full of Little Miss Sunshine-type "bittersweetness" and pseudo-transgressive concepts of turning death into a celebration of life. The songs aren't even very good, and have exactly the kind of contrived self-aware bombast you'd expect from a musical. A pretty mediocre movie, and an aimless one at that: it's at once a pander to general acceptance and a "weird, rule- breaking" film that doesn't break any rules.
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