The Happiness of the Katakuris tells us the story of the close knit Katakuris family, a family who quit city life and opened a guest house in the countryside. The family is made up of a couple who worked in a shoe shop, their siblings, their granddad and their little niece. Business is slow at first; they do their best to drag in any passing trade.
One man they manage to rescue from adverse weather conditions, they treat him like a king, bed, board and a hot meal. How does their guest repay them? He commits suicide in their suite. In order not to ruin the name of their business the family decide to bury the body in the woods. It’s soon revealed that all of their guests seem to have suicidal tendencies/terrible luck when booking into the White Lover Motel. Oh and this film is also a musical!
Happiness of the Katakuris, I first came across this film maybe 10 years ago. Knowing that I’ve seen this film already gave me a vague expectation of what to expect when refreshing myself with this viewing. But man! How bloody weird is this film, remember this is a remake of The Quiet Family, a dark comedy from South Korea, take that film and look at it through the kaleidoscope perspective of master director Takashi Miike
From the opening clay-animation short of a small creature being digest by various animals in the food chain, only to be reborn at the end AND then eaten again – you have to relax and let the weirdness wash over you. Happiness has clearly accrued a cult following to warrant it a re-release from Arrow. It does have some fun gags and the musical numbers cover all genres (karaoke to electric guitar solo!).
That final sequence we’re treated to another clay stop motion animation snippet! Probably because it was cheaper than CGI and getting to see that family dog Poichi surfing down a landslide was worth it alone.
To summarise I’ll repeat myself, it’s fecking weird, but the up-beat musical numbers makes Happiness of the Katakuris surprisingly watchable.
Blu-Ray Special Features
We’re spoiled! Arrow have decked the halls of this release with several features. We’ve got everything from The Making of… to not one, but two audio commentaries! Here’s our run down of the features.
In Animating the Katakuris we’re show footage of the clay animation directors arranging shots, occasionally knocking all his shit over in the process! Miike is also there look busting balls joking with the crew whilst factoids are scrolling across the screen in Japanese.
Dogs, Pimps and Agitators is a new feature from Arrow, the segment is mostly a slide show of movie posters and brief clips of Miikes work, whilst Tom Mes narrates the career of Takashi Miike. Mes credited as an author focusing his essays on the work of Miike – so he’s right guy to cover this subject. He does a good job managing to cover a large majority of Miikes very colourful career in cinema.
When it comes to the audio commentaries they’ve went to lengths of including the Audio Commentary from Takashi Miike and one of the leading actors. We are given two viewing options, listen to the commentary in Japanese, accompanied with English subtitles OR listen to an audible translation of the Japanese into English read out by two boys speaking as Miike and the others! That’s a first for me, it’s weird!