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The Happiness of the Katakuris

Genre-defying film from Japan

Takashi Miike's latest film begins innocently enough, with a young woman sitting down to a tasty bowl of soup. Savor this normal moment. Hold it close to you. It's the last shred of normalcy in the film.

Once the woman starts in on her soup, a tiny gremlin rises from the bowl and crawls into her mouth. That's where the claymation sequence begins, serving notice that you're about to enter uncharted cinematic waters. The gremlin returns from his tour of her depths holding - of all things - her uvula! An interesting little cycle of life sequence follows, ending with the little gremlin flying off into the mountains.

There really is no other discernable connection between this little gremlin and these mountains, in which the Katakuri clan has taken residence. They're in the midst of putting the finishing touches on a bed and breakfast they've built from the ground up. The Katakuris have put all their stock in a highway that is supposedly being built through the mountains. Soon, they hope, the hills will be alive with Yen-wielding tourists who need somewhere to spend the night.

Unfortunately, there has been some lagging on the part of the government to build the highway. The Katakuris have a great place to stay but there really is nobody around. Sure, there are some crazy religious pilgrim women every now and again, but they're not dropping any Yen on lodging.

Some Katakuri family history: There's Grandpa, who doesn't do much of anything. He's a good singer, though. Mister Katakuri is the proponent of the hotel plan. His wife has been through this before, it seems, and will go wherever he does. The daughter is twentysomething and has in her past, judging by the inferences of her no-good ex-con brother, passed the time slutilly. As proof, she has a daughter from an old relationship. It's a happily dysfunctional family with the rare ability to break into show tunes at the drop of a hat.

The fact that this is partly a musical helps throw any chance of categorization for the film right out the door.

Finally a slow string of visitors start to make their way to Katakuri country. The first one dies by his own hand. Not wanting to let word of this omen of bad luck escape, Mister Katakuri decides that they'll bury the man out by the swamp. A good idea on paper, but it's rarely executed properly. The long and short of it is this: Everyone that stays at the bed and breakfast dies. They all end up buried by the swamp. You'd think that in a family of six, at least one of them would find it morally wrong to hide these deaths. But for the most part they are on the same page.

The Happiness of the Katakuris is a funny, original film. There are times that it feels like a bizarre Japanese Sound of Music. But for the most part it doesn't resemble anything other than itself, and for that reason it is worth viewing, especially on the big screen.



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Happiness of the Katakuris
Unrated, but contains violence
1 hour 53 minutes

Kenji Sawada
Naomi Nishida
Tetsuro Tanba
Shinji Takeda
Keiko Matsuzaka
Kiyoshiro Imawano

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