THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS (カタクリ家の幸福) (Takashi Miike, 2001)
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Saturday, April 23, 7:00
Festival runs through April 23
“Let’s forget any accidents by singing and dancing!” is the cry of the Katakuris, a seemingly cursed family in one of the craziest dark musical comedies you’re ever likely to see. Japanese genre king Takashi Miike, who has made more than 120 films in his twenty-five-year career, outdid himself in 2001’s The Happiness of the Katakuris, an endlessly inventive tale of a disaster-ridden clan that moves to the middle of nowhere to run a country inn, lured by a rumor that a railroad will be built nearby. Masao Katakuri (Kenji Sawada) is a laid-off department-store shoe salesman who has big dreams, supported by his devoted wife and former work colleague, Terue (Keiko Matsuzaka). Their daughter, Shizue (Naomi Nishida), is a divorced single mother who falls for suspicious navy officer Richard Sagawa (Kiyoshiro Imawano), while their son, Masayuki (Shinji Takeda), is a disgraced financier. Masao’s elderly father, Jinpei (Tetsurō Tamba), likes killing birds and playing with the family dog, Pochi. The film is narrated by Terue’s young daughter, Yurie (Tamaki Miyazaki), who is sharing her memories of one very bizarre summer. Desperate for paying customers at the bed and breakfast they have dubbed White Lovers, the family is excited when a guest finally arrives, but alas, he is there only to commit suicide. Afraid that news of his death would ruin any chances of success, the Katakuris decide to cover it up by burying the man and not reporting anything to the police. And when subsequent guests end up dead as well — in bizarre, ridiculous ways — there is no turning back.
Miike (Ichi The Killer, Audition, Thirteen Assassins) and screenwriter Kikumi Yamagishi (Miike’s Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai and Over Your Dead Body) masterfully mix comedy, romance, Claymation, music, murder, and mayhem in this enormously entertaining and highly original movie that is filled with a never-ending bag of surprises. Loosely based on Kim Jee-woon’s The Quiet Family, the film includes an adorably vicious animated angel-winged mini-monster, a quartet of Macbeth-like witch women, and odes to Psycho, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and The Sound of Music. Each musical set piece, choreographed by Ryohei Kondo of the Condors, is done in a different style, going from bright and funny to dark and sinister, but always with a firm tongue in cheek. There’s lots of red blood, blue skies, and green, green grass as this oddball extended family try to make a better life for themselves, but luck is certainly not on their side. The Happiness of the Katakuris is screening April 23 at 4:00 in Japan Society’s rather eclectic 2016 Globus Film Series “Japan Sings! The Japanese Musical Film,” which concludes at 7:00 with another delightful offbeat musical, Memories of Matsuko.