The Happiness of the Katakuris


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

The Happiness of the Katakuris

Following various mishaps in their personal lives, The Katakuri family - the young narrator, her mother, her mother's brother, their parents and great-grandfather - buy a guest house and decide to make a new start.

Next to a volcano, the area is supposed to be the next big tourist destination. But business at the White Love Guest House proves deathly slow, then deathly.

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The Katakuri's first customer commits suicide. Fearful of damaging their reputation by going public, the family bury the body in the grounds. Soon after, a sumo and his petite girlfriend arrive. During sex, he has a heart attack and crushes/smothers her with his bulk, leading the family to debate whether it would be best to dismember his body and move it bit by bit, or simply lower him out the window.

Add a helpful local policeman, a conman pretending to be related to the British royal family, a murderer on the run, some volcanic and - yes - zombie activity, stir well and bring to the boil...

Any film that combines Svankmajer-style animation, Sound Of Music song-and-dance numbers and black/gross-out humour can only be described as weird.

Happiness Of The Katakuris may be weird, but it's not wonderful. Basically a one-joke film, it goes on too long and boredom sets in.

This said, director Takashi Miike handles the mix of styles well, throwing in some nice touches that somewhat bely the fact he directed six other films the same year, and getting his cast - including cult figure Tetsuro Tamba - to enter into the spirit of things wholeheartedly.

Miike's growing legion of fans may find the thought of the director doing a musical odd. On closer examination, however, The Happiness Of The Katakuris is as one with his other works, with similar motifs - repetition, excess, material baseness, hybridisation, familial loyalty - recurring.

Alas, one cannot help feeling that Miike's way of working means he'll never make a really satisfying film. Instead, there will be moments of crazed inspiration, interspersed with much that is tedious, or just plain bad.

It begins to appear that Miike may be Japanese cinema's answer to Jesus Franco. But, if the Sadean Spanish sleazemeister is the answer, how many out there really care to know the question?

Reviewed on: 15 Aug 2002
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Running a guest house proves deathly for a family. Just as well they know a few good songs.
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Read more The Happiness of the Katakuris reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****
Angus Wolfe Murray ***

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Kikumi Yamagishi

Starring: Kiyoshiro Imawano, Keiko Matsuzaka, Naomi Nishida, Kenji Sawada, Shinji Takeda, Naoto Takenaka, Tetsuro Tamba

Year: 2001

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan

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