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The Happiness of the Katakuris
2001 - - 113 Mins.
Director: Takashi Miike
Producer: Sasho Tetsuo and Yoshida Hirotsugu
Starring: Kiyoshiro Imawano, Keiko Matsuzaka, Naomi Matsuzaka, Teturo Tamba, Kenji Sawada
Review by: Jennie Kermode
   
This vibrant, high energy Japanese film has been described as "a cross between 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and 'The Sound of Music'", and it does, indeed, contain elements of both. It has its zombie moments, its crazy musical romance scenes, hideous accidents and happy family times; and, somehow, it manages to bring all this together into a coherent whole. Central to this is the child narrator, who is aware of her family's eccentricity but takes the many demented happenings in her stride. First appearing as she buries a beloved pet fish, her subsequent observations of adult behaviour help her to understand death as a part of life. Much of the subtext of this film is very dark, but events are continually lightened by the squabbling family members' great love for each other, resulting in Pangloss-style optimism. There are slapstick moments and much quirky, sometimes obscene humour. Small children would delight in this film, but most adults would be horrified by the thought of them seeing it.

'The Happiness of the Katakuris' tells the story of four generations of the same family trying to run a guest house in a remote location which only desperate people ever seem inclined to visit. Troublesome incidents and accidents compound one another - were this made in Britain, it would demand the presence of John Cleese. In actual fact, it's a remake of a Korean movie, 'The Quiet Family', though only in the loosest sense; it has a character all of its own. Some of this is doubtless due to the influence of director Takashi Miike, best known in the west for the terrifying 'Audition'. 'Happiness...' opens with an absurd and grotesque animated sequence which may make one doubt one's courage with regard to the rest of the film, but it'll soon have you hooked. During the scenes which follow, characters occasionally slip back into plasticine form, especially at moments of stress. This and the bursts of spontaneous song are used to terrific effect in the tradition of the old Surrealists. Though drawing on rich Japanese filmmaking traditions, this movie is a true one-off; bizarre, silly, disturbing, and vastly entertaining. Don't miss it.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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