Happiness of the Katikuris
review by Carrie Gorringe, 21 June 2002

28th Seattle International Film Festival

How best to describe Takashi Miike's latest film, Happiness of the Katikuris? Well, take a touch of an Old-Dark-House scenario, mix it with a Stanley Donen-Vincente Minnelli musical style, mix it all up with the sickest of sensibilities and serve it straight up with a straight-faced flair. Best known for his ultra-violent yakusa films such as Ichi the Killer, the gut-wrenching Audition, and Agitator (the latter also playing at this year's festival), Takashi eschews his traditional line of work to present the would-be fairy-tale life of a family eager to establish a renowned bed-and-breakfast. However, two obstacles stand in their path to happiness. First, the bed-and-breakfast is in a remote location far from the main highway. Second, and far more serious, the few guests that check in, like roaches caught in a roach motel, do not find their way out the next morning (this would seem like a scenario straight from the Bates Motel, except for the accidental -- and sometimes hilarious -- nature of the deaths, not to mention the burials themselves). The paterfamilias, desperate to preserve the bed-and-breakfast's reputation, enlists his family's help in ensuring that the bodies never again see the light of day. Then, the sister, nave and desperate in her search for love, begins dating a man who claims to be Queen Elizabeth's nephew; he is, in fact, one of Japan's Ten Most Wanted. All the while, the family takes time out from their stress to indulge in post-burial song-and-dance routines (even the corpses join in at one point). This wonderfully twisted sensibility is "reformulated" and reinforced periodically through surrealistic sequences of startling and wonderful clay animation for good measure.

Unlike his experimentations with the yakusa genre, which can sometimes into monotony after the first hour or so despite the on-screen violence (or perhaps because of it), the director has risen to a whole new level of brilliant over-the-top madness with Happiness. In his pre-screening speech, the director observed that Japanese audiences didn't know what to make of the film at first. Maybe the thick layer of high-octane irony on which the film rests is not a Japanese tradition, but over here the film gives a whole new meaning to the tired phrase "side-splitting comedy".


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Directed by:
Miike Takashi

Rated:
NR - Not Rated.
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