The Happiness of the Katakuris

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Jennie Kermode's film review of The Happiness of the Katakuris
The Happiness of the Katakuris

It is a tribute to Tartan Video that a genuine effort has been put into producing these DVD extras. They compare favourably with the vast bulk of mainstream product that slaps any old rubbish into their Making Of docs and allow convoluted waffle to pollute audio commentaries.

Takashi Miike is Japan's busiest filmmaker - over 50 in seven years - and he's still in his forties. He wears skateboard gear, tee shirts and baggy pants, with a skin-tight black cotton skullcap over cropped peroxide hair. "He looks like a high school student in a Hollywood movie," someone remarks.

Copy picture

His energy is prodigious and he laughs a lot. The actors love him because he's crackling with ideas ("That's new to me," the teenage Katakuris says), constantly leaping about, showing them what he wants by doing it. The rehearsal scenes are hilarious.

He shares the commentary with a film critic, who plays the odd-looking first victim in the movie - in one scene he has to cram himself into a fridge so that when the door opens his grimacing visage will make the audience jump - and spends much of the time in fits of giggles.

It's obvious that this is one of those rare film in which everyone had a terrific time making it and you can see this in the documentary. The actors admit that they can't dance to save their lives and then along comes an extraordinary fellow, called Mr Kendo, who makes up the choreography on the spot and they love him for it and call him "an original." His character, not unlike Miike, is outgoing and creative, like everything is a joke, even the difficult bits.

Thinking on the hoof, inventing as they go, is part of the spirit of the production. "It was getting late," Miike remembers, "and the producer would not allow us to finish the filming next day, so we had to invent a solar eclipse to account for the sudden darkness."

The original idea came from a Korean film, called Quiet Family. "This is the remake," Miike says, with a grin. He insists that the entire plot is encapsulated in the opening clay animation sequence, which he dubs "the food chain", where a baby angel, a crow and a zip bag toy eat each other. He loves this kind of thing. His earlier films were violent gangster dramas, or psychological thrillers, such as Audition. The Happiness Of The Katakuris is a musical, or a decidedly bizarre black comedy.

The interviews with the cast and director are fascinating and the Making Of doc is fun fun fun. For some reason Miike's half hour spot is dubbed into American, while the rest is in Japanese, with subtitles.

"Everything amuses me in the filmmaking process," Takashi Miike says.

It's catching.

Reviewed on: 29 Oct 2003
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The Happiness of the Katakuris packshot
Running a guest house proves deathly for a family. Just as well they know a few good songs.
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Product Code: TVD3433

Region: 0

Ratio: Anamorphic 1.77:1

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Commentary with director Takashi Miike; Making Of documentary; Takashi Miike interview; Animating the Katakuris; Interviewing the Katakuris; Jamie Russell film notes; Filmographies; Trailer; Takashi Miike trailer reel

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