Tuesday, February 3, 2009

REVIEW: The Happiness of the Katakuris

カタクリ家の幸福 (Katakuri-ke no kōfuku)

Released: 2001

Takashi Miike

Kenji Sawada
Keiko Matsuzaka
Shinji Takeda

Kiyoshiro Imawano
Tetsuro Tamba

Running time: 113 min.

Reviewed by Chris MaGee

I knew that if the Pow-Wow didn’t feature a review of a Takashi Miike film soon that your humble editor (me) would run the risk of being paralyzed, stuck full of acupuncture needles and have my feet sawed off with piano wire. That wouldn’t be good. I hate needles. So I thought the best way to remedy the situation would be to review my hands down favorite Miike film ever, 2001’s “The Happiness of the Katakuris”.

Now in 2001 the execs at Shochiku tagged Miike to make a fun-for-the-whole-family film that they could release around the Japanese New Year’s holiday. Apparently these guys had been smoking crack, but who am I to judge? In turn Miike, who never seems to say no to a project no matter how full his schedule may be, delivered a remake of a 1998 Korean comedy called “The Quiet Family”. Sounds like a nice family film, even has family in the title! Well, this was a “black” comedy about a family who runs an inn in the country where guests keep dying and the family has to cover it up, and Miike who as you well know never plays a film by the books decided to… um… embroider things a bit.

The trials and tribulations of the Katakuris, your typical Japanese family, even though their son has a history of ripping off money from the yakuza and their daughter has never met a loser she wouldn’t date, isn’t just shot through with the usual Miike weirdness. No, there are also musical numbers worthy of a Busby Berkley or a Michael Jackson that he uses to heighten the drama as the family has to deal with this string of dying guests while at the same time trying to make a go of it running an inn in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and add to that the use of clay-mation when Miike’s script overreaches the films budget (you’ll have to see it to believe it). And OH! ... Not to mention the enlisting of Japanese punk rocker Kiyoshiro Imawano to play the nephew of Queen Elizabeth… possibly… maybe.

There are very few films that will send me into fits of laughter after repeated viewings, but “The Happiness of the Katakuris” is one of them, and seeing that’s the case then those Shochiku execs should’ve been downright thrilled at the film that Miike delivered to them. Despite the suicides, volcanic eruptions, the sumo wrestlers and the whatever that thing is that eats the woman’s uvula at the start of the film AND of course the zombies this is a feel good film. Hell, the zombies are dancing for pete’s sake! I think the only reason that “Katakuris” hasn’t become the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” of the 21st century is the language barrier, but if we all get off our asses and brush up on our Japanese I could easily see everyone singing and dancing along with the zombies instead of doing “The Time Warp” yet again.

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