I just had a pretty awesome but mostly not anime-related weekend, and while I’d love to go into detail, it would be a pretty long post and you guys aren’t the right audience (if you happen to be a dragonforce fan who wants to hear a cool story, contact or comment and i’ll tell you about it). Instead I’ll talk about a small part of what made that weekend awesome, Takashi Miike’s Happiness of the Katakuris.
As usual, with Miike, you go in expecting something weird, and as with some of his films, this one had you expecting something akin to injecting heroin into your eyeballs. After Sukiyaki Western Django, I was a little wary of Miike’s more odd movies. Django promised awesome with fun, laughs, and kooky strange, and failed to deliver on every account. Katakuris is a musical about family togetherness, random people getting killed, occasional zombies, claymation shorts, and amazing music (even outside the songs.) Unlike django, this movie was totally fucking great.
The film opens with an unrelated nonsensical claymation segment with cheery music, a thing that looks like a creature from a Tool video, and ultra-violence among the animal kingdom. The plot of our movie is that this family, the Katakuris, who had until now lived somewhat separately move together when the man of the house builds an inn on what will supposedly become a major road. The mother and father are homely folks, though the dad is not very financially intelligent and is trying to convince himself that building this inn in what we quickly realize is the middle of fucking nowhere wasn’t a bad idea. The son is an ex-con who was put in jail for stealing wallets. He’s a nice guy, but stubborn. Their daughter is a milf – that is to say she’s got a young daughter because she falls in love easily and got knocked up early. Then there’s the old grandad who’s a bit of a coot, and has been around a long time. The film chronicles what it’s like to be a katakuri, the hardships of keeping their family together and keeping them all sane, and, ultimately, what makes them happy. In that way, it’s a heartwarming, cute, fun film all the way through.
But this is Miike! You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?! The first visitor to the inn comes during a heavy storm. Everyone is excited to have their first visitor even if he seems a little weird. However, the next day, after the daughter and her, um, daughter have gone out to town boy-hunting, shock! The visitor’s stabbed himself in the neck and died on the floor of his room! Shit! Now what?! Do we call the cops? No, wait… the father has a better idea. No one can know about this! We’ll bury him out by the lake! Wrap him up in a tarp and let’s get the shovels!
Meanwhile the daughter falls in love at first sight with a man who, despite being BLATANTLY Japanese, is pretending to be an American who’s come here on duty. Could it be this man is actually a swindler who uses women to get money? The daughter’s too swept off her feet to know or care!
That afternoon, the second visitors arrive, a huge sumo wrestler and his petit girlfriend. The second they have their room, the wrestler immediately mounts the girl and starts fucking her with all his gigantic force, shaking the house for several hours straight. But later that night, when th wrester finally cums, he goes so hard it kills him! When the Katakuri’s find his body they take a minute to realize that the girl suffocated underneath his heavy dead body! The daughter is here now, and she’s sure we should call the cops, but no! Father knows best! Lets bury them ear the lake once again!
Happiness of the Katakuris is brilliantly dark and witty, mixing violent or disturbing ideas with a nature so light and fun that death is comedy. The film is unpredictable, simultaneously using cliches as a way of parodying the horror and musical genres while breaking them and going off in it’s own direction. For once, the length of the film is not a weakness as it remains constantly entertaining and experimental. The songs are always a blast, from the overly dramatic choreography of some to the all-around strange visual effects of others. The daughter’s story is a poke in the side at the sort of soap-opera josei-manga crap girls love, which makes for a hilarious parody all on it’s own. Every character has their own hilarious or endearing qualities that makes them memorable and all the situations are either over-the-top or just perfect. In many ways, it could be considered Miike’s most well-rounded film yet.
As usual, the ending was a blast, though slightly more expected from this film since it was pretty crazy all the way through. I can’t count the number of times everyone in the room was laughing, freaking out, or on their feet applauding – definitely a film experience to remember.