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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad43.75%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 10 user ratings

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Happiness of the Katakuris, The
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by Andrew Howe

2 stars

Letís imagine youíre a filmmaker drumming up support for your latest project. You call a meeting of prospective financiers and tell them you want to shoot a comedy about a Japanese guesthouse and the family that runs it. However, because you made your name by making the audience squirm you want to toss in a little gratuitous violence, and since youíre nothing if not avant-garde you think itís a good idea to switch to animated clay models at critical junctures. You also want to do the whole thing as a musical, because if itís good enough for Luhrmann and John Cameron Mitchell then itís good enough for you.

Japanese investors are obviously a good deal more forgiving than their Western counterparts, because Takashi Miike does all this and more in Happiness of the Katakuris. Hardcore dope smokers will think theyíve broken through to an alternate dimension, while everyone else will be left to admire the unshakeable self-confidence that enabled Miike to create one of the most rampantly uncommercial films this side of Eraserhead.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around an extended familyís attempts to coax their isolated guest house into the black. Unfortunately, everyone who stays there seems destined to meet with an accidental death, so our heroes avoid the inevitable scandal by burying the bodies in the woods. The eldest daughterís flirtations with a scheming con artist provides the love interest, and as the web of lies grows ever more tangled the Katakuri clan sing and dance their way to a suitably over-the-top climax.

The film defies any attempt to review it in a conventional sense, since issues of character development, coherent plotting, compelling storylines and acting prowess are obviously irrelevant to Miikeís central concern, which is to see how far he can push his concept without losing the viewer entirely. Anyone who lasts the distance will be treated to some truly absurd sequences, which include (but are by no means limited to) the leads doing a song-and-dance routine around a dude with a pair of scissors embedded in his neck; claymation interludes that take the place of special effects or stunts which were beyond Miikeís miniscule budget; and a production number depicting the initial meeting between the lovebirds that looks like it was lifted from a cheesy karaoke video clip.

General weirdness is not of itself a reason to criticise Miikeís creation Ė David Lynch has been getting away with it for years, and itís always refreshing to spend time with a film that spits in the face of formula. However, Lynch always rewards a deeper analysis, and while Iím wary of trying to second-guess Miikeís intentions I find it difficult to believe that he approached the script with any kind of serious intent. This leaves us no option but to judge it as a black comedy, and on that basis it meets with limited success.

Itís got ďcult classicĒ written all over it, but that doesnít necessarily make it a worthy investment of your time. Itís 113 minutes long, which is a ridiculous running time for a film that has no intention of building the characters or constructing a finely tuned narrative. It needs to be short, sharp and punchy, but the wacky set-pieces are sandwiched between extended periods of comparative inactivity, and the farcical humour (black or otherwise) is hard-pressed to raise a smile. Boredom is the inevitable result, and even music and choreography fans will be counting the minutes, since most of the tunes are soporific, unmelodic offerings partnered with exaggerated psychedelic dance moves that fail to impress once the initial incongruity has worn off.

I can honestly say that Iíve never seen anything like Happiness of the Katakuris, and since it gives me something to talk about at parties itís not without its rewards. However, if you donít go to many parties youíd be advised to think it over, because unless youíre a devoted Miike groupie itíll be a very long stopover indeed.

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originally posted: 08/01/02 13:14:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/03/05 Jennifer S. One of the strangest and funniest movies ever made! 5 stars
10/14/05 Agent Sands One of the best musicals I've ever seen, simply because of its insanity. 4 stars
8/24/05 Robert Mc Grath Should anyone be able to tell me what this movie is about please email me at bobitty133@hot 2 stars
4/09/05 K. Sear A deliciously absurd romp of strangeness. Highly recommended. 5 stars
1/02/05 pochi instant classic with iconic cast exploding their legendary images. 5 stars
7/06/04 Conan Are you crazy? the family goes from alienated disharmony to rallying for their family biz 5 stars
6/05/03 Iron-Fan-Defence Great fun, a refreshing change from the usual hollywood bollocks 4 stars
4/14/03 john it's funny to read miike reviews by people who have not seen his other films. 5 stars
9/01/02 A.B. One of the most hilarious movies I've seen this year. This would never come from Hollywood 5 stars
8/25/02 Andy The best 5 stars
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  02-Apr-2002 (NR)
  DVD: 18-Nov-2008



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