The Happiness Of The Katakuris

2001, Movie, R, 113 mins

Review

HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, THE | KATAKURI-KE NO KOUFUKU
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His thirst for sadism apparently slaked by the out-of-control violence of his 2001 comic thriller ICHII THE KILLER, Japanese shock auteur Takashi Miike tries his hand at something a little different: a song-and-dance musical. And while this cracked remake of the popular Korean comedy THE QUIET FAMILY (1998) isn't exactly what you'd call wholesome entertainment, it is enormously entertaining, and it marks a refreshing change of pace for the versatile Miike. Convinced that a proposed highway will soon be bringing tourist traffic through the picturesque hills that surround the popular resort town of Karuizawa, recently laid-off shoe salesman Masao Katakuri (Kenji Sawada) invests his nest egg in a run-down country inn and drags the entire Katakuri clan to the remote Japanese countryside to help him fix the place up. Masao hopes renovating the lodge will also help repair his somewhat dysfunctional family, which includes his marvelously understanding wife, Terue (Keiko Matsuzaka); his aged father, Jinpei (Tetsuro Tanba); his son, Masayuki (Shinji Takeda), who's done time for white-collar crime; his divorced daughter, Shizue (Naomi Nishida); and his grandaughter, Yur, Shizue's little girl and the film's narrator. But once the renovations are done and the White Lover's Guest House is opened for business, there's still no sign of a highway construction crew or a single tourist, until one stormy night when a lone traveler asks for a room. What appears to be a reversal of fortune turns out to be just the opposite when the Katakuris later find their sole guest dead in his room from a self inflicted stab wound. Afraid that the bad publicity will drive away future business, Masao buries the body in the woods and hopes for the best. The best isn't coming: It seems whoever checks into the Katakuri's guest house doesn't check out, and soon the woods are filled with graves. Grisly, yes, but it's all done in fun; having tried his hardest to shock audiences with his previous films, it now appears Miike simply wants to entertain, and he pulls out all the stops. In keeping with musical conventions, the Katakuris routinely burst out in song to express their deepest feelings — who cares if the tunes are terrible and the choreography even worse? And when the action gets to be a little too complex to stage realistically on what appears to have been a fairly limited budget, the forever inventive Miike breaks out the Play-Do and does it all through Claymation. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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