The Happiness of the Katakuris

3 out of 5

Director: Takashi Miike

Musical? Sure. What brings you to Katakuris – The director? That its a loose remake of another respected directors film – The Quiet Family? Youre a weird cinema fan? Im not quite sure what youre expecting, but Id be wary of the sound of music / dawn of the dead taglines that appear in various spots, as Katakuris is a mostly funny, mostly interesting, but oddly bland film that doesnt quite satisfy from whichever direction you approach. There is a plot potentially rife with comedy here – a husband and wife who have bonded together to start what they hope will be a successful inn, running it with their wacky father, love-hungry and single-mom daughter, and can’t-keep-a-job son, are waiting for a road to be built which will theoretically populate said inn. But its taking a while… and the guests they do get… all seem to die in strange ways. I approached this as a Miike follower – surface-wise it has a Miike sheen, with the general family themes and weirdness that the kids like, but otherwise theres something off to it – the cinematography is uncharacteristically sharp and bright and the camerawork doesnt have quite the same dedication to its subjects that I feel from the majority of Miike. But he is an experimenter at heart, and there is a sense of joy that runs under the surface, evident in the constant light tributes to different genres and films (which is where those oft-quoted references come from, though they are fleeting on-screen). That joy sometimes breaks through, and you laugh, but mostly this seems like a film that was a blast to make but just sort of fun to watch.

Update: 12 / 22 / 2018 – Arrow blu-ray viewing

4 out of 5

Having just rewatched this after upgrading to a blu-ray version… Wow.  I loved it.  This kicks up to upper tier Miike, for sure.  I can see where I was coming from with the above review, as elements of my reservations still remain, but they’re far outshone by how solid the majority of the flick is, and how committed Miike is in presenting it all with a celebratory, joyous vibe.  I had dove pretty deep into Miike by the time of my first viewing, but perhaps not Japanese cinema in general; I was also watching it with someone unfamiliar with Takashi, and likely not a frequent foreign film fan either, so I remember our viewing of it was met with a lot of silence, and unless – for me – you go into such an experience prepared to separate your feelings from who’s around you, how they respond (or don’t respond) can take a toll.  All of those factors had me sensing the film’s energy, but not feeling it.  Now, with this fresh viewing, it’s a remarkably solid film.  It’s theme and style are sort of rocky and uneven in the first part – the claymation intro doesn’t have much to say that its quirky little angel character is needed for (and so is something of a distraction), and the initial forays into musical don’t feel full-fledged – though that could be considered purposeful: that the latter bits are better because the family has developed the emotional connections to sing together.  There are also two places where Miike uses quick edits, and I cannot conceive of the reason for them.

But these are all much more reserved criticisms than what I felt on my first viewing.  They’re just oddities; small stumbles in an otherwise hilarious – hilarious! – and appreciatively emotional film.

The Arrow release, but of course, is phenomenal; it’s very possible that the commentary from Tom Mes – shedding light on some inspired casting and clear parodies Miike was employing – helped my opinion of the film.  There’s also a Miike commentary (with English subs) that I feel like is a rarity on his releases – though I guess this if from the original DVD release and maybe I hadn’t listened to it before? – and though it’s quiet and distracted, it’s got a few interesting bits, but is more fun for hearing his camaraderie with his co-commentator (a film critic who played a part in the movie) and singing along (!) with the karaoke.  Perhaps better capturing Miike’s p.o.v. and wandering opinion, though, is a new Arrow interview with him.  Years distanced from the flick, it’s definitely interesting to hear his more seasoned take, as well as the tweaks history makes on how one speaks about something.  There are also several making-of / behind the scenes, full cast interviews (all from, I’m supposing, the original release), and several nice write-ups in the liner notes.


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